The reason we watched The Revenant for my humanities course at school was because it falls under the time period of Manifest Destiny in the United States. Manifest Destiny was the belief that the US had a God-given right to expand as far west, north, and south as they wanted.
The Caucasian characters in this film are not settling the land, although in the film Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) seems to have lived around there with his Pawnee family, the characters are mainly there for the fur trading business. But this is how expansion further west started as the trappers became familiar with the land and able to navigate it giving people confidence to move there, forcefully remove the Native Americans, kill all the animals, and start deforestation.
In my discussion class, people were tearing this film apart. It bothered me because its just a movie, it’s entertainment. But, like I discussed in a previous article (satire: Stint at Philosophy: Personal Introspection with Rousseau) that’s what humanities people are supposed to do with everything… destroy with intelligent rhetoric. So I’m not gonna do that.
I love movies. I love film history. I love the movie making process. I would love to take part in it some day… but what are the odds of that happening?
Actual Post (no spoilers)
I really enjoyed the film, it was gritty and beautiful. It reminded me a lot of Gravity because both films are subtle with minimal dialogue and each frame is a work of art. There is a sort of numbness to it but yet there is a flood of emotions at the same time. The biggest character of the film was Mother Nature in all her beauty and splendor and isolating capabilities.
What stuck with me the most about this film was the loneliness. Nature can be very isolating with its seemingly infinite space. There were several moments of complete peace in the film where the characters seem to be part of nature. But this was always interrupted by quick intervals of extreme danger and violence.
This effect is heightened because of the widescreen, which leaves more room in the frame for the background. But its interesting that the humans take up such a small space in the frame. Like humans are tiny compared to nature, but also prevalent and destructive.
The film is unapologetic about the violence that happens between humans and also with animals. With the action sequences, water and blood splashes onto the camera, which makes the scene feel like it really happened and that the camera just happened to be there to record it.
Despite the isolation, there are times the film shows real intimacy. The Hugh Glass in the film is motivated by his deceased family to continue living. They are also isolated from everyone else because they are a mixed family but this only makes their bond and love all the more deeper. Love and family are integral parts of human nature.
After he is abandoned by his group, he has a brief friendship with someone from the same tribe as his wife who helps heal him from his wounds. It is very moving that in any circumstance, we as humans can still make connections with other human beings.
This scene of them trying to catch snowflakes with their tongues is the only light-hearted scene in the film. The sort of comedy relief is necessary in everyone’s lives to forget about our troubles and be able to clear our minds.
Another aspect of human nature shown in the film is faith. Throughout the film, Glass remembers his wife telling him, “The wind cannot defeat a tree with strong roots.” In this shot, the trees are combined with the ruined cathedral and a strengthened Glass standing in the middle. It’s combining different ways in which faith presents itself in humanity: religion, nature, or trust in oneself.