By Niharika Ghoshal
This Hollywood rendition of the legend of American frontiersman and fur trapper Hugh Glass, who for didn’t stop to impress with his story of struggle and revenge was packed with theaters full of people who have waited for this piece of sheer visual brilliance. A film based in part on Michael Punke’s 2002 book The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge is the proud nomination for 12 Academy Awards.
A Salut! To DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio delivers a barnstorming performance as the fortified Glass, whose quest for survival takes him on an undecided journey offering him the very choice of life and death. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, has cooked up – a glistening, gut-wrenching wilderness plot, simmered on blockbuster quantities of self-importance and with the slash of machismo garnished on its bowl of exceptionally well crafted movie. The Revenant is the embellished true story of a 19th-century fur trapper, Hugh Glass, who endures a savage bear attack and the death of his son at the hands of a fellow frontiersman – then claws his way across thousands of miles of frozen rock in order to settle the score.
Visual Brilliance to Boot
A clean sweep to Oscar victory last year with the faux one-shot gimmickry of Birdman, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu once again excites and appeals his audience with the technical brilliance of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, working wonders with his digital Arri Alexa cameras. The film has been mainly shot in Canada and Argentina, with a digital grizzly bear one of the few obvious concessions to artificiality. He meditates on the wilderness, filming in natural light in magic hours and showcasing some of the most stunning images we have seen in the movies in the recent past. Lubezki may just become the first cinematographer in film history to win three consecutive Academy awards — he won the last two for Birdman and Gravity.
It is his work that gives The Revenant its haunting soul, as well as a list of scenes which will take your breath away, whether it is DiCaprio plunging into icy waters, being buried alive, chomping down on raw bison liver or crawling into a still-warm animal carcass to sleep. Lubezki’s work, all shot in natural light, does justice to Inarritu’s vision.
Inarritu, like Quentin Tarantino, uses historical fiction to make a political statement. He picks up the first chapter in American history of European immigrants’ clash with native Indians that resulted in wiping off of indigenous people, the first assault of capitalism on nature. The Revenant isn’t just a Man vs Wild survival drama or a revenge saga. It is also an existential journey, besides its artistic politicking. That said however, I did feel that it was too much to meld into a coherent film.
Detaching what ‘The Revenant’ is from what it means is tricky, because the two are more or less the same thing. The film stretches for sublimity, addressing grand, spiritual issues like revenge and rebirth. But its understanding turns out to be no more complicated than “don’t give up” – and what really keeps me watching is the dumb thrill of finding out what horrendous thing will happen next.
Why 12 Academy Award Nominations?
Every step of their respective journeys feels tricky, every frame infused with the landscape’s diamond-tipped beauty and breezy disregard for human life. Snow whirls and billows, twilight scowls on the horizon, embers dance like fireflies in the night, Lubezki’s 1823 America is beautiful to watch. The hallucinatory texture of the film rhymes perfectly with the background scores.
Di Caprio delivers a mature and committed performance as a man bent on taking revenge. He is largely non-verbal in the film, showcasing anger and desperation solely through his eyes and physical movements, DiCaprio ensures his raw and ingrained performance will not be forgotten for years.
And then there are the memorable scenes – the opening shot is just one of them. The one where the bear attacks Glass as he is out for another day at work when a mama bear attacks him, mauls him and comes back for more. Or the scene where DiCaprio removes the entails of his dead horse, strips off his clothes and climbs in has that quality that keeps the audience glued to the seat. The audience cannot look away even if it wants to.
I will be really hooting for The Revenant and DiCaprio as they lift the Oscars this 28th February
With 12 nominations, it seems to have checked all the right boxes. It will hopefully make Innaritu and DiCaprio and their fans like me very happy. For the commitment and craft DiCaprio and Innaritu bring to the film, it will be well deserved.
Image Sources: Google Images