The art of film and the intention it has in mind varies from time to time. Its main goal is to entertain, but a certain amount of them could have the strength to become more than just something to feed our viewing pleasure and let time pass by with good enjoyment. Aside from giving us quality leisure, a number of films also have the ability to inflict pain and to let us feel; allowing us to be a part of it by inserting ourselves in the situations of the characters onscreen by switching our mindset to theirs.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s latest drama The Revenant places ourselves in the middle of a frontier and lets us in for a staggering experience that will pierce through you like a dull knife covered in blood that’s been sharpened thoroughly and will astound you with its filmic lifelike strength showcased through a picturesque and brutally vivid delineation of loss, retribution and exploration. His direction allows for an exploration outside of the box of the revenge sub-genre’s conventions through the reliance on various methods of storytelling, and he achieves it in perfection through a connection that is patiently forged as he gives it an artistic cosmetic that sears the soul and satiates the eyes. A mediation is what it initiates in its duration, and in there, the silence is made resonantly vocal to the spirit as well as the senses. Its mind is lost in the dark, and along with it, it also carries a heavy heart which helps portray the themes of vengeance by grabbing our hands, taking us out of reality, and placing us deep into the minds of its characters wanting to exact their revenge. This all happens in 2.5 hours. For some, it’s painstaking to sit through, but for those already accustomed to the cinematic class that it binds itself into, you’ll find this a rich, emotionally engaging feast of solemnization complemented dearly by Emmanuel Lubezki’s skills behind the camera.
The Revenant is a revenge-centered movie only done with superb techniques, but it stands really strong for having a whole lot more to it than just that. Technically it may show the lead character furiously thirsty for payback, but aside from that, it heavily takes us to the contemplative reflections that he has in his devastated mind as well as the psychological consequences of the hurtful events that occurred to him. What Leonardo DiCaprio does is basically form a barrier of art and reality; connecting himself to the viewers with all the facial expressions emitting pain, anger and enlightenment to create a bond with the audience by letting us through to witness his suffering and to hear his cries of despair and screams of torment all uttered exquisitely with his silence. Assuming that it is indeed an experimental performance in a heartbreaking role by Leonardo DiCaprio, the occasional moments of his character’s utterances of words are made with strength because we know exactly where he is pulling it from.
His character goes through a cycle of life where he learns that “pain isn’t forever although the scars remain”. Together with us, we learn that its depiction is riddled with beauty and elegance as we just took on a dark and soulful journey in a cruel world. This so-called “experimental acting” worked greatly to its fullest potential even if it may have had left some viewers scratching their heads in confusion with Leo’s apparent lack of words because that’s exactly one of the film’s main essences and it must really be absorbed in order to fully appreciate what Iñárritu is trying to speak out. It may seem weird for some, but it is worth stating that Leo’s grunts and squawks are just perfect since they bring out his emotions with rawness.
The fatal incidents that he had to endure crafts themselves as the film’s most pivotal moments and at the same time defines the infernal damage and eventual spiritual and psychological recovery that Leo’s character had. The film depicts nature as cold-blooded and shows that even nature acts as a major force in our life which is so brutally portrayed onscreen as we see a creature that has been emitted with a life-changing power that paves the way for his exploration. The unleashing of the creature’s wrath is unforgettable and grips us in our seats just as we see the terror that he charges. That scenario puts ourselves in it as we see through Leo’s eyes the agony that he’s experiencing. What adds to that furthermore is Tom Hardy’s John Fitzgerald who acts as a force that makes his life hellish. His portrayal is perfected by Hardy’s ability to manipulate feelings of uncontrollable rage that he harnesses from his senseless actions and dark-minded doings. Both Leo and Hardy were great and for some, it could just be hard to point out who did it better because both were flawless.
Going along the lines of expressionism, the imagery gets presented as if it’s like a jumbled puzzle where the pieces are kept enigmatic for one to gather in their heads, and unveil what they really mean to say. What makes Emmanuel Lubeszki’s hypnotic imagery wealthy in context is that the film exploits it to great use to keep Iñárritu’s narrative hidden beneath; consummately capturing its nobility that is revealed through landscapes of strongly evocative, atmospheric, filmic poetry in true Malickian fashion that gives observant viewers an escapade they’ll never forget.
Violence is one of the many themes that drives the film and it definitely has a lot to say. The gloominess and cold temperature that drives the film stabs us hard with an appeal that shakes our comfort in an absorbing and exquisite manner. Capturing our attention right from the get-go are the uninterrupted shots of bloodshed which is too rough to handle, and gorgeous all at the same time as it verifies the humanity in the realistic discomfort that it lets us undergo. Yet, even if we feel disheartened by the fiery violence that is sparked from all the disastrous consequences of rage and misery apparently it becomes impossible to blink for a second for it ensures levels of authenticity that makes you feel like you really are there. This is given more emphasis once it is all seen in IMAX wherein the huge screen that’s been further graced with Ryuichi Sakamoto’s soul-lifting music that serenades throughout.
Immersing yourself and not minding the time will bring a fullness that would make you completely appreciate the efforts of those involved in the making, and will truly make you believe that The Revenant is a modern Tarkovsky picture highlighted with Leonardo DiCaprio’s subtle tour-de-force performance, and Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s devoted filmmaking that harnesses a spiritually-inclined quest into the cold grounds of vengeance, bravery and exploration. It’s worthy of being hailed as a modern classic in time, and is one of the finest and opulent character studies in today’s cinema no matter how polarizing it could get.
The Revenant opens in Philippine cinemas on February 3, 2016 from 20th Century Fox. Witness its true strength in IMAX for ONLY ONE WEEK!