My experience of Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s ‘The Revenant’ and what I seemed to have taken from it is much like that of a typical Werner Herzog film. The depiction of the sublimity of nature is one that Herzog has proven to have mastered in his documentaries and until now, I have never seen this concept executed in a fictional Hollywood narrative come close to my experience of Herzog’s films. Realistically portrayed bear attack or not, ‘The Revenant’ not only reflects the obvious, ‘Grizzly Man’ but films like ‘Encounters at the End of the World’ which let the beautifully terrifying images of the natural world play a more than significant part in telling the story. The camera seems to be guided and pushed and lured by nature’s Godly presence within the narrative. Yes, for someone like me who has never been able to find a religious bone in my body, there is something about this film that struck some sort of spiritual chord and had me mesmerized.
The constant innovative use of tracking shots and lack of quick cuts reflect the film’s unwavering ability to hold the audience captive, perhaps in some sort of trance. The tracking shots allow for a certain emphasis on movement that seems to weaken the barrier of the screen, forcing the audience to become much more involved with the narrative. Normally, I am easily able to avert my eyes from this particular kind of ruthless, gory violence, however, the only time I can remember taking my eyes off the screen was to wipe away tears.
Any viewers who decide to watch the film with expectations of it fulfilling their every definition of the perfect film should prepare themselves for disappointment. I hate to break it to those of you, but just like people, the perfect film just does not exist. ‘The Revenant’ will not provide you with characters set out on a journey of self-discovery or even any development for that matter. Not to mention the lack of dialogue and knowledge of who the characters are, which is why many viewers may criticize the film’s “failure” to establish an emotional connection with its audience. To me, these elements that so many find to be missing, did not cross my mind, or if they did, it was because of how much I thought that the lack-there-of functioned to enhance the film altogether. It’s just not that kind of story. The narrative here is both literally and figuratively a cutthroat story of the relationship between nature’s wilderness and the nature of mankind. The rawness and harshness of the film’s content serves the viewer more than enough heart-wrenching moments and images to hold on to that the background history and detailed knowledge that could have been gained from additional exchanges between characters is not necessary. The film lets nature and humanity as an abstract form, do the majority of the talking.