The Revenant was the oscar nominated film that I had been most eager to see. I posted about it months ago expressing my excitement towards the prodution of the film. You couldn’t walk more than 12ft in Manchester without seeing an advertisement with Leos face plastered all over it. Even watching football at Old Trafford, I was shocked to see images of Leo and reviews being projected throughout the electronic advertising boards all along the pitch. The Revenant, in a way, has really become the face of this years Oscar ceremony. Theres always that one film that people are eager to look out for on the night, and apprehend its successes and failures. This year, it is The Revenant. The other factor that has drawn so much media attention to it is of course Leonardo DiCaprio. He is well known for unfairly never winning an oscar despite being nominated 6 times. This year is the year that people believe the bad luck cycle will be broken and with a performance such as the one he gives in The Revenant, it’s difficult to see why he won’t be successful. I understand why he didn’t win one for the likes of Wolf Of Wall Street where he was effectively playing himself, but this performance is different. I largely find it interesting that this is the year he is probably going to win and it’s the motion picture he has the least dialogue he’s ever had as a lead in a film. That’s what makes the performance so special though – he doesn’t need to depend on heavy dialogue to deliver a moving performance. He uses his body and his screen presence to do so.
The Revenant is instantly breathtaking from the opening shot. I was watching the film in the imax and knew I was about to see something special. Every one of Alejandro Iñárritu’s shots are worth 10 of every other film shot last year. So much effort was put into such a candid beginning which left the film with a harrowingly beautiful start. This puts the viewer in an almost dreamlike state only to be swiftly whiplashed into the brutality of what was to come. The colours highlighted by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezski were almost tranquil. Moments later when you are forced into a tightly choreographed fight scene you become lost in the chaos. The colours in the wind and the innocent images of a child are lost as the screen is filled with blood, manic and terror. The camera perspective changes so many times its almost nauseating and leads you to think you’re on a rollercoaster and not watching a film on a screen. The brilliant minds of Alejandro Iñárritu and Emmanuel Lubezski once again work like magic together to create takes that look seemingly unedited. The camera paces through with the characters on foot, on horseback, through icy water rapids and through torturously never ending forests. Every now and again the action stops and we are shown widescreen shots of outstanding landscape imagery. There are moments in the film when it feels more like a nature documentary and it’s the perfect in-between to balance out the harsh reality that Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) is living. Alejandro Iñárritu stated back in 2014 to The Hollywood Reporter that there would be absolutely no CGI involved in the enhancement of the location filming. This led to multiple cast and crew members leaving the production because they couldn’t deal with the extreme filming conditions –
At times, Leo was shot at such a close range that it made me feel uncomfortable to be witnessing such a personal moment. You really get the feeling of intrusion when he’s grimacing through pain at such a close angle with his breathing amplified. With usual close-up shots they never normally last more than a few seconds but it felt like we spent minutes at a time face to face for Leo and for the first time ever, I didn’t want to be face to face with Leo.
Whilst going into the film with a basic knowledge of the plot, I never knew how the bear scene was exactly going to be played out. It was 100x more brutal than I ever could imagine. As well as the savage imagery, we were given the audio to deal with as well! I found the noises and wheezes that Leo emitted more disturbing than anything else. Not only in this scene but that goes for the whole film. The bear attack scene was quick and straight to the point. It was hard to watch but something about the velocity of the scene meant that I couldn’t look away. I think every person in the cinema grimaced as they imagined the full force of Hugh Glass’ injuries. I have searched high and low for a list of Hugh Glass’s official injuries but it’s hard to say as the tale has been passed around many campfires, as you can imagine, bits of information will have been added and took away here and there. From what the film expresses and the most authentic accounts, Hugh Glass suffered from; Shredded Scalp, face, arms, hand and chest. Broken femur and ribs and a ripped throat. His biggest injury was apparently his back which was entirely chewed along with his shoulder. Grim. The Revenant is definitely not for the light-hearted. My poor vegetarian cousin Emily came along with us to watch it as she thought it would be a “nice Leo film to see about motivation and love.” She was pale and on the verge of vomiting as she watched Leo cloak himself in the carcass of a horse.
Another great edition to The Revenant was Mr Tom Hardy. Tom Hardy is a really difficult actor to be attracted to because he always plays extreme characters which make you doubt your attraction. Playing John Fitzgerald in The Revenant is no exception. He has a wirey spooked look in his eye from the moment we see him on screen. His graphic scalp and wide-eyed performance emphasise the bad blood that runs through his veins. This man is a cunning kind of evil. A coward, a betrayer and a murderer. In the real account of Hugh Glass, it is known that John Fitzgerald never killed Glass’ Native American son, because he didn’t actually have one. In actual fact, when Hugh Glass finally caught up to John Fitzgerald and the rest of the men he forgave them as without the son factor, there was no real reason for a violent revenge. Due to the nature of the real story, this gave Tom Hardy the chance to really play with his character in ways that Leo didn’t have to. Hardy had a lot more room to explore different ways to become Hugh Glass, since he was basically creating an added element to him. I mean, I bet Hugh Glass is looking down now thinking thanks a fucking lot Mark Smith (co-writer) for leading the world to believe I am a child killer.
The most surprising cinematography choice I saw was the decision to break the fourth wall and this happened THREE times. I’m not a fan of this Brechtian style at all. I want to watch film/tv as an outsider thank you and not as a participant. It’s an escape! Not an endurance. The first two times the wall is broken is when Leo’s breath mists the camera lens in one of the extreme close ups. There would have no doubt been numerous perfected shots that Iñárritu could have used but he went with these two. Now I’m not absurdly offended when directors do Brecht subtly like this, so I actually quite enjoyed this little bit of realism. The third instance is to end the film. Leo looks directly into the camera lens which really threw me off. You’re already trying to digest everything thats just happened and the bloody ending, and then your hit with that! Theories whether Hugh Glass was supposed to have known about the camera the whole time have surfaced online but no. Do not believe this squalor. Iñárritu isn’t stupid enough to do some kind of time crossover which would indicate a fully functioning camera was around in the 1800s. All the same, it was the perfect final shock for an outstanding film which deserves all the praise it is given.
- Leonardo states that he was given a red gelatine pancake like food to devour instead of the bison due to him being a vegetarian. After seeing how unrealistic the prop looked and watching Arthur RedCloud (Hikuc) eating bison on set all day, he decided to go for the real thing. He describes it as an experience that he will never, ever do again.
- Leo learned to shoot a musket, speak two native American languages, build a fire, and study with a doctor who specialises in ancient healing techniques.
- Tensions were high on set between Tom Hardy and Alejandro Iñárritu. So much so that after months of high emotion and belligerent, Tom confronted Alejandro about his intensity which resulted in them fighting and Tom Alejandro out! Luckily the two made up and were able to joke about the scuffle which eventually became an internet hit when it was turned into a t-shirt.
- Leonardo DiCaprio states that this is the hardest performance of his career.
- The word “Revenant” comes from the French word “Revenir” which means “to return”
- the films original budget was $60m which then went up to $95m and by the time production finished it was reportedly $135million
- Leo spent five hours a day in makeup to have his scars applied
- This was Arthur RedClouds first film. He was a truck driver from Texas before his role in The Revenant.
- Glass initially injures the bear by shooting it in its life side and then eventually killing it with stab wounds. Mirroring this in the final scene, Glass shoots Fitzgerald in his left shoulder then goes on to stab him.