revenant movie symbolism

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80 nicki minaj lyrics perfect for instagram captions, 34 harry styles lyrics as instagram captions that'll even make him 'adore you', theme and symbolism in 'the revenant', here's what going on under all that blood and snow..

Theme And Symbolism In 'The Revenant'

Before I begin, I would like to tell you two things. One, there are lots of spoilers ahead! Two, if this is your first Tom Hardy movie, I suggest watching "The Drop" or "Lawless" first to soften the blow when you see how horrible his character in this movie is. That's all.

I wanted to write about "The Revenant" this week because the film is striking, not only visibly, but also emotionally and symbolically. As an English major, I am prone to finding tiny things and their larger meanings in books and film. This is what I saw in "The Revenant" and what I learned about the film after seeing it just once.

More than just survival.

The trailers would have you think "The Revenant" is simply about these two guys fighting to survive not only each other, but also the harsh winter conditions they find themselves in.

However, there is a deeper theme present, and it's woven so neatly throughout the film. It's a theme of having to become what one hates in order to survive. My first example of this is when Glass (Leonard DiCaprio) wears a bear skin to protect him from the cold. This isn't just any bear skin. It's from the bear that nearly killed him.

So we go from that, Glass being mauled by the bear, to this:

You can see some of the bear's snout at the bottom of the image. The skin is kept intact, so Glass is truly wearing the entire bear through the movie.

Next, we have Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). He briefly talks about a time when he was almost scalped, and we see where his scars are laid between clumps of hair. Later, in an attempt to throw Glass off his trail, he murders and scalps another man. Fitzgerald did this to make it seem like the Arikara tribe might have killed the man. In killing the man and scalping him, Fitzgerald had to become something he hated and do something that hurt him in the past if he wanted to try to escape Glass.

More than just living.

By my count, we see Hugh Glass being "buried" at least three or four times. He is literally half-buried in a grave by Fitzgerald. Then, Glass befriends a Native American who covers him with branches during a storm, and later, Glass guts a dead animal and sleeps inside of it to stay warm. Each time, we see Glass physically break out of these places and crawl back onto the earth.

His drive to keep on fighting definitely points to his motivation to survive, but the numerous scenes showing him being resurrected point to a bigger idea: mortality. We wouldn't need survival if there wasn't mortality, and I think that's what the resurrections scenes were aiming to show.

Overall, I thought "The Revenant" was a great film. There is a good amount of violence, and some of it was difficult to watch, but the film as a whole was powerful. Almost immediately, you feel submerged in the snowy, brutal setting with the characters. I felt humbled after watching it because it was an incredible reminder of just how big the world around us is and how unforgiving it can be. A very sobering film, but definitely one to watch (if you can stand the con tent ).

"As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe. Keep breathing. When there is a storm, and you stand in front of a tree...If you look at its branches, you swear it will fall. But if you watch the trunk, you will see its stability. " -Glass' Wife

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The six most iconic pitbull lyrics of all time, mr. worldwide just wants to see you succeed..

It is no secret that Pitbull is a gifted artist, but many fail to remember that he can be a source of great inspiration as well. The following is a list of iconic Pitbull lyrics that we know and love. Read on to feel empowered — if you think you can handle it.

1. Look up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane / No, it's just me, ain't a damn thing changed. (From "Timber") Not a day goes by that I don't see Pitbull flying over my rooftop, dressed in white linen from head-to-toe and drinking a Capri Sun. If that image doesn't motivate you to be better, then nothing will.

2. Been around the world like the sun / I've seen more breast than your newborn son. (From "Shake Senora") Need to boost your resume? Trying to impress a colleague? Use this line. Watch them be amazed, first by your worldly experience and then by your rhyming ability. Thank Pitbull later.

3. And it's not our fault that we have all the ladies / But it's hard to see these ladies when your middle name's Equator / All around the globe, matter fact, see you later. (From "Celebrate") Take a lesson from the school of Mr. 305 — it doesn't have to make any sense, it just has to rhyme . Also, it is possible to have all the ladies, even with a middle name like "Equator."

4. In L.A. they get krazy / Miami they get krazy / In New York they get krazy / Atlanta they get krazy / In London they get krazy / In Paris they get krazy / In Rome they get krazy. (From "Krazy")

Pitbull wants you to never stop studying your map of the world. Learn the names of every city. Say them one after another, all the time. However, Pitbull also wants you to know that you can put that dictionary down. Spelling doesn't matter. Kraziness is universal.

5. Modern day Hugh Hef (uh yes) / Playboy to the death (uh yes) / Is he really worldwide? (uh yes). (From "Dance Again") Does Pitbull wait for someone to answer his questions? No, because he's a grown-ass man who knows the answers. Are you going to wait around for someone else to answer your questions, or are you going to be like Pitbull? Be like Pitbull. Be a grown-ass man who parenthetically answers his own questions.

6. This for anybody going through tough times / Believe me, been there, done that / But every day above ground is a great day, remember that. (From "Time of Our Lives") If Pitbull tells you to be thankful, then be thankful, dammit. After all, we live in an amazing time when a man who wears sunglasses indoors can make millions by listing the names of cities and rhyming Kodak with Kodak. Feel #blessed.

7 New Year Clichés: Break Free, Embrace Change!

Those that everyone know.

It's 2017! You drank champagne, you wore funny glasses, and you watched the ball drop as you sang the night away with your best friends and family . What comes next you may ask? Sadly you will have to return to the real world full of work and school and paying bills. "Ah! But I have my New Year's Resolutions!"- you may say. But most of them are 100% complete cliches that you won't hold on to. Here is a list of those things you hear all around the world.

1. "I will be serious about working out"

Are you? Odds are you will get that gym membership, go for a few weeks, and completely forget about it. You will realize that autopay is taking $80 out of your account and you either need to cancel or start going again. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be in better shape, but do it at a pace that is right for you. Don't let the change in year dictate it.

2. "New year new me!"

This cliche is the most over used and most underdone. Every year we hear "New Year New Me!!", and the most that comes out of it is someone dyes their hair or gets a tattoo . Yes, these are life changing attributes to a person, and everyone should be commended for trying new things, but don't try to change you just because its a new year. Stay true to yourself.

3. "I'm going to be more outgoing!"

Being adventurous is always a great thing! Stepping out of your comfort zone is always exhilarating, but don't force yourself to do things that make you feel uncomfortable. So are you really going to go out, or will you continue to watch Netflix and go to the same restaurants. The choice is yours!

4. "I'm going to get more organized "

Trying to get organized is a great feat few of us can manage. It's always good to do a big spring cleaning, but trying to completely organize everything is trying to change how you live. I know when I try to do something like get a new planner, I either stick to it or I forget about it.

5. "I'm leaving my bad relationships in the past!"

Bad influences won't go away in your life if you wish them to stay in another year. Work hard at this one if you are going to make it one of your New Years cliches. Toxic relationships should stay in the past, but it is up to you to keep them out of your life.

6. "I'm going to party less"

Party as much as you want. There is nothing wrong of going out and having fun as long as you are safe doing it. If partying is what you enjoy doing, then that is okay. Not everyone conforms to that lifestyle, but if that is your thing there is no shame in that! Don't leave it in another year because you think you have to.

7. "I'm going to get more serious about my career/schooling"

This is the cliche that you should stick to. It's never a bad thing to be more focused on your career and school, as long as you don't lose sight of the important things. If you get serious, make sure you make time for your family, friends, and most importantly, yourself.

11 Essential Expectations for Becoming the Ultimate Cheermeister

Mastering festive expectations: tips to shine as your holiday cheermeister.

So you’ve elected yourself as this year's Holiday Cheermeister, there’s no shame in that. The holidays are your pride and joy, and you've taken on the responsibility to get everyone in the spirit. With only one week until Christmas , here are some things we expect from you, Cheermeister.

1. Counting down every second until the big day

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2. Being the first to put up their Christmas decorations

3. planning all the holiday festivities for your crew, 4. forcing your holiday enthusiasm on others, 5. winning first place in every holiday sweater contest.

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6. Giving the best secret Santa gifts (Puppies for everyone?)

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7. Being the life of all the holiday parties

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8. Getting defensive when someone says Christmas isn't the best holiday. Cheering on your friends through the last week before school vacation

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10. Never missing the opportunity to rock out to Christmas's greatest hits

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11. Lastly, not letting anything break your Christmas spirit!

What does santa want for christmas 5 presents on his wish list, santa is really hard to buy a gift for..

Santa Claus is the hardest self-employed freelance worker out there. The Christmas spirit of joy and peace himself reading a list of people's names and their gifts to be delivered, and all in one night is no cookie cutter task.

He should know; there's plenty of cookies to go around. Santa has his reindeer to keep him company but spreading Christmas cheer is not always what Santa wants to do for himself.

Here are five presents Santa wants for Christmas because he deserves them.

1. Gap years.

Santa gets to travel across the world but only in one night. Think of all the local hot spots and destinations he is missing out on. It is unfair that he has to deliver billions of presents while the rest of the world enjoys their vacation time.

We all could chip in and give Santa an extended holiday leave. Parents can just tell their kids he had to rush order their presents this year. And the year after that, and the year after that...

It is about time Santa got out of his boots and into some sandals. He does not do timeshares either.

2. Real food.

It was cute the first few times around, but does it have to be the same thing every year? Santa is a sweet and jolly man plenty enough on his own.

He doesn't need another candy cane, chocolate chip cookie, or glass of milk to keep the holiday cheer going. If anything, he is bound to have another sugar crash.

That's what caused the infamous Sleigh Crash of 1964. Ditch the dairy and baked goods, and give Santa a plate of your Christmas meal.

You thought Santa spent all of December up at the North Pole? He has an incredible side hustle, working grocery stores with his bell for the Salvation Army.

The worst gig of all is staging his workshop in every mall he goes to. Santa is a full-time toymaker and a part-time socialite. You know Santa is overqualified and he deserves what he is worth.

It is the season of giving, so give Santa his trillion dollar annual salary already.

4. Workshops around the world.

Why does Santa have to make all the world's gifts and toys from one workshop? Christmas magic can only to take our indomitable bearded friend so far.

He needs workshops in every country, that way he does not have to fly everywhere and everything at once. He will be closer to those who asked for gifts and spend more time out of his natural environment.

If Santa cannot stop working, give him something more and something better to work with.

5. Shorter lists.

Santa is not suggesting a decrease in population here. He just wants everyone to be nice instead of naughty. The gifts are enough to carry without that coal weighing him down.

He is also tired of hearing the reasons why you were naughty this year. It is breaking his gumdrop heart . Santa should not have to bribe you with presents or punish you with coal.

The greatest gift you can give Santa is kindness .

Santa is not that picky when it comes to gifts. Do the right thing, and he promises there will not be any coal in your stocking this year.

Christmas Love: A Heartfelt Letter to My Boyfriend

You are my favorite gift..

Dear Boyfriend,

Merry Christmas ! Spending another Christmas with you is enough of a gift for me. This is the time for me to tell you how grateful I am for you, which I often forget it in the light of Christmas chaos.

Who would have imagined that when we met that we would mean so much to each other now. You have nudged your way into my anxious and guarded heart in the smoothest of fashions. There is no one that I would rather spend the holidays with, no one I would rather drag to the mall for holiday shopping , and no one I would rather struggle with when trying to find the "perfect" present that tells you how much I love you. I can not wait to engulf ourselves into winter activities and there is no one I would rather have pull me around on ice skates. I am taking this time to thank you for all you have done for me in 2015... you surely deserve it.

Thank you for dealing with my anxious personality.

I know it can't be easy dealing with someone who makes up unlikely scenarios in their head or cries at the slightest moment of being overwhelmed. You have been such a comfort to me, more than you could ever imagine. You constantly surprise me about how loving and caring you are.

Thank you for pumping my gas.

Thank you for always doing the little things for me, pumping my gas being a personal favorite. Whether it's bringing me Starbucks on a cold morning or scratching my head to sleep , you always go out of your way to make me happy .

Thank you for being apart of my family.

Although I think my family may possibly like you more, you recognize how important my family is to me and have been in no way short of showing them love. You are not just a part of my life, but theirs as well and that makes them incredibly happy.

Thank you for sharing your closet with me.

Well, I guess I really mean letting my throw all my clothes over your floor and leaving shoes in your closet for months at a time. Even though you already warned me that I can't do that when we move in together.

Thank you for taking care of me when I am sick.

Whether it is surgery or a case of the sniffles you are the first to surprise me with soup , a box of tissues, and some well-needed cuddles. It takes an extra special person to kiss me, well aware that you could get sick .

Thank you for being an overall great person.

I have never been more impressed with someone who is constantly concerned about others and their well-being. You are more than willing to put others before yourself and I admire and respect you for that. You constantly impress me and there is not a day that goes by that I am not thankful for you.

With more love than you could ever imagine,

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revenant movie symbolism

revenant movie symbolism

The Revenant Reviewed Explained and its Historicity Dissected

[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B01AB0DX2K]If you have yet to see the Revenant, (which, most of you won’t have the opportunity as it isn’t widely released quite yet, January 5th I believe?) this section will be safe from spoilers. I will clearly denote where I start to delve into spoilers. Because I plan to do a deep dive and dissection into the inner workings of the film and the true history of Hugh Glass. So, please watch for the blaring flashing lights and the sirens, and only continue on after you’ve seen the film. Fair enough? But it is my plan to do a very detailed vivisection of this amazing film and explain some of the deeper inner workings going on right in front of our eyes.

I’ve been talking about the incoming Revenant for quite a while now . I even went so far as to declare it the winner of the 2015 Oscars. Well, I was lucky enough to get a chance to see The Revenant even before it went wide with it’s release… (Thanks a ton Fox!) And oh, holy, cow. What a movie. But I’ll get to that in a moment. Iñárritu went so far out of his way to guarantee that the film would be available in theaters before the end of the new year, in order to guarantee a chance at the Oscars for 2015. So what are his odds there?

The Revenant’s Oscar Odds

revenant-riding

  • Academy Award for Best Picture
  • Academy Award for Best Actor –  Leonardo DiCaprio (1st, will break his losing streak)
  • Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor –  Tom Hardy (1st)
  • Academy Award for Best Director –  Alejandro González Iñárritu (2nd year in a row)
  • Academy Award for Best Production Design
  • Academy Award for Best Writing Adapted Screenplay
  • Academy Award for Best Cinematography
  • Academy Award for Best Costume Design
  • Academy Award for Best Film Editing –  Stephen Mirrione (2nd, 1st was for Traffic)

Nine isn’t too bad. I’d guess it would take 10 or 11 in any other year. For example, The Revenant could also take the Best Visual Effects award, but there was a Star Wars movie released this same year… and there is no way on God’s gloriously green earth that anyone will beat Star Wars when it comes to visual effects. It’s not because Star Wars’ special effects are so good, but it’s because it is the one token win they can give to one of the most significant movies in the history of film. They are (and will be) the top grossing films of all time, and they are the top payer of paychecks throughout Hollywood. That should be honored somehow, right? The Force Awakens will get a nomination for Best Movie this year, but it won’t win. So Effects will be a safe bet for the new lightsaber feature.

The Revenant will also not take home the Best Score award solely because Iñárritu chose to bring in two different composers to work on the score. Although it was primarily Ryuichi Sakamoto’s score that we hear. Iñárritu is currently appealing this decision by the Academy… which he also appealed last year for his work in the movie Birdman, after he added pre-existing classical music to the score. But he failed to impress the Academy last year with his argument, and he will fail to impress them again this year. Especially in a year when John Williams appears in the docket. John Williams is the second most nominated human, behind Walt Disney himself. But he has only won 5, and his last win was for Schindler’s List. I’m betting he’ll win again. Finally breaking that drought. The Oscars are nothing if not sentimental. But regardless, Iñárritu basically was honored last year for Birdman, but didn’t receive the awards the movie should have won. Best Editing? Puh-lease. This year though, the Revenant falls in line with the sort of movie that the Academy adores to heap praise on. Historical set pieces, set in natural settings? This is a slam dunk. I promise you I’ll come back and check in to see how well I did on my predictions.

The Revenant Movie Story Overview

This photo provided by Twentieth Century Fox shows Tom Hardy in a scene from the film, "The Revenant." The movie opens in U.S. theaters on Jan. 8, 2016. (Twentieth Century Fox via AP)

The basic story of this film is fairly easy to communicate, if fairly difficult to grasp emotionally. Hugh Glass and a group of trappers and fur traders were hunting throughout the Missouri territory. They are attacked for their pelts (which, APPARENTLY, are worth more than gold… because some of the things these guys do for this stupid pelts are beyond me) an chaos ensues. A few of the men get away and soon after Glass is attacked by a bear – the mother of all bears, these beast is something else – only to barely escape with his life. The group is left with a quandary on their hands. Glass, was important in their surviving this far, but what now? So the group decides to leave his son, and two others with him, until he dies. Chaos ensues through a few details that I won’t share here, and Glass’ son dies, and Glass is buried alive. Obviously Glass survives, and the rest of the film is just one big nature porn – revenge flick. One of the greatest next two hours of cinematography actually. How on earth is this going to play out? How could this possibly have really happened? All of these thoughts went through my mind, over and over again. The movie is kind of like letting someone disembowel you, and then, at regular intervals, letting them stir the contents of your intestines while you watch. (And by the way, I mean this in the best possible way.) It is a movie that demands respect. It is a movie that demands watching with eye drops, because you won’t blink for the duration. It is a truly fantastic movie in every sense of the word.

revenant-dicaprio

The Historicity of Hugh Glass and His Story

[amazon template=iframe image&asin=1250101190]Alright, if you’d like to walk into the movie theater with nothing but the above general overview, I highly recommend you abandon this conversation at this point. We’d (what am I saying, there is only me here… I guess I enjoy utilizing the royal we?) love to have you back. But I definitely don’t want to ruin your watching experience.

The Revenant was originally a novel released in 2002 by author Michael Punke. Since seeing the film I figured I should go back and read Punke’s groundbreaking novel and see how the movie differed from the novel. And surprisingly, the book is an absolutely rip-roaring read. Punke’s tone is really quite journalistic in his approach and very even handed of the events as they happen. But one of the flaws of the book (that the movie overcompensates for) is it’s handling of the Indians throughout. The nameless Indian, watching from up above. The fact that the indians are the stand in for evil, and are the two dimensional bad guys? Seems like lazy writing to me. But otherwise the book is a fantastic read. And if you don’t mind going into the theaters with knowledge of the plot, the book would be a great read beforehand I’m guessing. I enjoyed it after the fact anyway.

But one of the single biggest differences between the novel, and the movie, is enormously significant. This one change is the entire raison d’etre of the film. And that is that Glass, had a son, and his son, was half Pawnee Indian. Blam. Just like that, we are inside the weaknesses of Glass’ thin portrayal of the Indians. The historical Glass, did spend a year with the Pawnee Indians. So maybe it could have happened that he had a son via a Pawnee wife? I went digging, fairly deeply, and came up with this first telling of the story of Hugh Glass in the Missouri Trapper . It’s an amazing read all by itself. I mean, how can you not completely flip out when reading this sort of thing?

“The varied fortunes of those who bear the above cognomen, whatever may be their virtues or demerits, must, upon the common principles of humanity, claim our sympathy, while they cannot fail to awaken admiration. The hardships voluntarily encountered, and the privations manfully endured,, by this hardy race in the excercise of their perilous calling, present abundant proofs of those peculiar characteristics which distinguish the American woodsmen. The trackless desers of Missouri, the innumerable tributary streams of the Mississippi, the fastnesses of the Rocky Mountains, have all been explored by these bold adventurers; and the great increasing importance of the Missouri fur trade, is an evidence, as well of their numbers, as of their skill and perseverance.”

Like I said, it’s a great read all by itself, and could possibly be an even better pre-read to watching the movie than Punke’s novel. But that’s just me.

The basics of the story (in the original account, the letters, the novel if not also the movie) are simple enough. A group of fur traders were moving through the Missouri wilderness. Glass and another unnamed tracker were leading the way and gathering food in advance so that the larger party wouldn’t go to bed without dinner. While scouring the woods for food Glass stumbled upon a “white bear” that tore Glass to “peases” [sic] as described by a letter about the event written by Daniel Potts. Why don’t we just let the Missouri Trapper tell you the general overview of the storyline?

“The rifle of Hugh Glass being esteemed as among the most unerring, he was on one occasion detached for supplies, He was a short distance in advance of the party, and forcing his way through a thicket, when a white bear that had imbedded herself in the sand, arose within three yards of him, and before he could “set his triggers,” or turn to retreat, he was seized by the throat, and raised from the ground. Casting him again upon the earth, his grim adversary tore out a mouthful of the cannibal food which had excited her appetite, and retired to submit the sample to her yearling cubs, which were near at hand. The sufferer now made an effort to escape, but the bear immediately returned with a reinforcement, and seized him again at the shoulder; she also lacerated his left arm very much, and inflicted a severe wound on the back of his head. In this second attack, the cubs were prevented from participating by one of the party who had rushed sorward to the relief of his comrade. One of the cubs, however, forced the new-comer to retreat into the river, where, standing to the middle in water, he gave his foe a mortal shot, or to use his own language—“I burst the varment.” Meantime, the main body of trappers having arrived, advanced to the relief of Glass, and delivered seven or eight shots with such unerring aim as to terminate hostilities, by despatching the bear as she stood over her victim.”

And while this isn’t exactly how the bear mauling goes down in the movie, it’s close enough for our purposes. Glass is laid waste by a bear, and nearly dies. The whole company is in debt to Glass for his skills, and his abilities, and so they decide that they will leave a few men back with Glass and bury him after he dies. It is then that the movie diverges most significantly with the historical accounts and it is Glass’ son that is the main driver and motivator of the movie going forward. But in the historical account, it was the fact that five men, willingly chose to live Glass behind. They took his gun. They took his supplies. And they left him for dead. Glass managed to crawl to a nearby stream, and to subsist on berries and on the water. He then began the slow 300 mile crawl back towards civilization. And it is this experience that fueled the desire for revenge, not the murdering of Glass’ son. Either way, both would be enough to make me want to kill someone. It’s almost like the movie Touching the Void in one sense. But much much more intense.

The Revenant Cinematography

revenant-bear

Another aspect of the cinematography is how Iñárritu did the shoot. Apparently, shooting on location in the wilds of Canada is difficult at best. And it took so long to get to the remote locations that it left very little time for actual filming. The shoot was extremely difficult to pull off.

It was planned this way, to be little-by-little jewel moments; that’s the way I designed the production. That was both to create intensity in this moments, as well as the climate conditions. We are shooting in such remote far-away locations that, by the time we arrive and have to return, we have already spent 40% of the day. But those locations are so gorgeous and so powerful, they look like they have never been touched by a human being, and that’s what I needed. The light is very reduced here in winter, and we are not shooting with any electrical lighting, just natural light. And every single scene is so difficult — emotionally, technically.

But this just screams off the film screen. I have never experienced anything like it before. I’ve never seen such gorgeous panoramas or such amazing vistas. There were shots that just took your breath away. Frozen lakes and mountain vistas. Claustrophobic foggy scenes set in amongst aspen groves. Roaring rivers. Frozen, wind blasted country sides. It’s a wonder that the film crew survived the shoot, let alone the fact that Hugh Glass survived anything even remotely like it.

I found myself just shuttering down through my core at a couple of the different sections of the film. The worst, obviously, was the time when Leonardo climbs into the carcass of a horse in order to survive the coming of a storm. At first I chuckled to myself that this was a real life reenactment of Han Solo putting Luke Skywalker in a tonton on Hoth. But I quickly dispatched that thought as I watched the actor, honestly doing this very very terrible thing, right in front of my eyes. Another was the bear mauling. Someone, anyone, please tell me how they did this shoot. Because, as far as I can tell… they hired a bear, pissed it off something terribly, and then had it beat the daylights out of DiCaprio. Can’t think of another way that they got this shot. None. Man in a bear suit? Nope. CGI? Obviously not. It really is something else to watch.

The Revenant and the Acting

The two main actors that carry this movie from start to finish are Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Initially, there were discussions with Sean Penn about playing opposite DiCaprio in the role of Fitzgerald. But Penn was wanting to direct a project of his own, and so he dropped out. Hardy though, brings the acting chops necessary to counterbalance Leonardo’s brilliant role.

“It was a different type of challenge for me, because I’ve played a lot of very vocal characters. It’s something that I really wanted to investigate — playing a character that says almost nothing. How do you relay an emotional journey and get in tune with this man’s angst … without words?”

Leonardo’s lines are more grunted then spoken. Most of the movie he is too injured and sick to really provide eloquent exposition. Hardy on the other hand waxes eloquent regularly as he explains his behavior away to those that are dubious of his actions. Hardy’s playing of Fitzgerald is sort of a cross between his Bane role and his role in Locke. And now that I think of it, Leonardo’s role is more like Hardy’s role in Mad Max… which is a funny role reversal now that I think about it.

Regardless, it’s interesting to think about how filming with natural light changed the way in which the acting was achieved. Leonardo said that the filming was more like a play or a ballet than anything else:

“To pull off these complicated sequences, like a ballet, movement needed to be precise,” DiCaprio says. “When it came down to that nail-biting moment to capture that magic light, every day was like putting on a mini-piece of theater. If we lost that one hour, if we didn’t accomplish what we had to accomplish, we were there the next day. And oftentimes many of these locations were very remote. So it was a very intense set, because we knew we only had one shot every single day. Otherwise … we would be back there again.”

Which makes sense seeing as though Iñárritu is the master of long takes. The whole of it pulls together into one long amazing vision of acting and visions unseen before. A nine month shoot seems almost short considering what they achieved on this film.

The Revenant & Revenge

In the movie, the ending is one of the most intense scenes ever filmed. The final revenge between Glass (Leonardo DiCapprio) and Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) is unlike anything I’ve ever personally seen. I jumped a number of times as I watched it unfold. And ultimately, just before the final blow is struck by Glass – he considers the words of his Pawnee travel partner, that revenge is for God alone, and he chooses not to strike Glass down. Instead he shoves the man into the river and the Indians that have be trailing Glass the entire movie finally (and a bit conveniently) arrive to kill Fitzgerald and then send him on his way down the river.

But in real life, is this how it happened? No, not at all. But if you take the time to read the Revenant, or read through the letters and newspaper articles you’ll see that the story is even more exciting and thrilling than the movie at parts. But the ending is a bit less climactic. Glass spends close to a year hunting Fitzgerald down. He learned that Fitzgerald had gone on to Fort Atkins in Nebraska, and finally caught up with the man. Did he decide to savagely bludgeon the man to death for leaving him for dead in the wilderness? Nope. Seems like real life consequences for killing someone overrode fiction. Fitzgerald had become a soldier in the army, and killing a uniformed man basically meant that he’d be hanged. And so, he took back his weapons, and then went on his way. But it does not lesson the account of a man attacked by a bear and left for dead in the wilds of the early American plains. On the contrary, it makes me want to read more about the man even more.

Glass’ Final Days

All this made me very curious as to what really happened to Glass. I found this quote out on Wikipedia, that I quickly corroborated in a few newspaper articles of the times, specifically the Milwaukie Journal, wherein a visitor at Fort Union shared such an account of Hugh Glass’s death.

“Old Glass with two companions had gone to Fort Cass to hunt bear on the Yellowstone, and as they were crossing the river on the ice, all three were shot and scalped by a war party of 30 Aricaras.”

Seems like the man was destined to die at the hands of Indians eventually, regardless of our desires at Political Correctness. Personally I think there should be several different memorials to this larger than life giant of a man. Ten years out on the icy plains, and still surviving? Amazing. Surviving multiple run ins with hostile indians? I saw we create a Gofundme page and get statues erected immediately. But even with the movie diverging significantly at the ending, I still think the movie is a gorgeous portrayal of Glass’ life and adventures.

The Revenant Explained

hugh-glass-and-pawnee-wife-revenant

But the movie would have us believe that Glass’ time with the Pawnee Indians ended with an attack on their village. And it was during this time that his wife (whom he apparently loved very dearly) was killed. Which could have been the case, but there is no information about her at all that I could find anyway. The movie then carries the narrative of the father and the son forward, which brought them to join the fur trappers. Some of these scenes between Glass and his Indian wife, and his recently killed son are some of the most interesting and most curious of the movie. There is a scene where Hugh is standing in the ruins of a church and he is holding on to his son for dear life. But when he comes to he is holding on to the base of a tree that had grown in the center of the church. And while these scenes are complicated, I think we can see clearly enough that Hugh Glass’ wife and son visited him when he needed them most. When he was dehydrated, and bleeding out. When he was famished and out of his mind with fever. These scenes definitely depict the past and present in very interesting ways to the viewer. Both telling of his past, as well as telling of his current delusional state. Are there other sections of the film that still baffle you? Comment and we’ll get them answered and the post updated right away. But for me, those were the areas that made me really think hard during my first viewing.

The Revenant Conclusion The movie is worth a second and a third viewing. And all the Oscars inevitably bestowed upon it won’t be enough to account for the crazy shoot, and the low box office (anything this movie takes in will be too low for it’s amazing quality). What were your thoughts on the movie? I’d love to hear more about what you think. Definitely didn’t mean to go on for over 4,000 words. But this movie was definitely worth it. Definitely a fantastic viewing experience that I will highly recommend to anyone I come across that hasn’t yet seen it.

I’d genuinely be surprised if this film wins more than 3 Oscars. It’s a great film technically, and for that it will win only technical Oscars such as cinematography and make up etc.

Hey James, thanks for the comment. Seriously? Do you really think Leonardo will lose again? This is by far his best performance ever. Like, nothing even comes close to it. If he loses for this, there is no way, on God’s gloriously green earth, he’ll ever win. Never. And heck, Tom Hardy should win too. Way better performance than his more recent ‘Legend’ movie… even though he acted in two roles side by side. That felt more like a gimmick than any sort of legit deal. Anyway. That is amazing to me you think he’ll lose again.

Thanks again for swinging through. Taylor

Just got finished watching it and I thought it was a great movie and it never got slow even with the long run time..the only thing that I confuses me is the ending with his wife walking away!

Hey Jake, Yeah – I recall that scene. I wondered about that scene too. It sort of felt like it was some sort of closure between Glass and his wife about his getting closure with their son’s death. She definitely was there throughout the entire movie and was pushing him on.

Dunno, what do you think?

The ending was spoiled by the fact that I couldn’t work out why the Indians left him alone after killing Fitzgerald

They had tracked him for days and yet just walked passed him

Hey Mick, I’m definitely going to add this detail to the blog proper. I definitely feel I have an answer for this one. And it specifically has to do with the fact that he saved the Chief’s daughter. I should go look up her name in the movie… Powaqa, that’s it. Glass intervened on Powaqa’s behalf – saved her, allowed her to kill the man raping her, and then escape. Powaqa, then tells her father, and when they finally get her, they are still very close to overcoming Glass. When they do, he is in the act of killing Fitzgerald, and they not only don’t hurt Glass, but they assist him in killing Fitzgerald, which does two things.

1. Allows Glass not to murder out of vengeance, and to let God have justice. 2. Allows the audience to get closer on the entire Powaqa thread which Glass may or may not have anything to do with initially.

But yeah, that was a good point. Definitely need to clarify that in the post.

You need to read “The Frontiersman” by Allen Eckart … About the frontiersman named Simon Kenton … This guy, whom most all the Indians knew by his size and hair, make Hugh Glass seem like he stubbed his tiny toe.

Sweetness. I just downloaded it. Boom! Thanks Jeremy. Can’t wait to read it.

Taylor, forgive me for not remembering specifics but I think you will get the gist of my question. At one point during one of Glass’ flashbacks of his wife’s village being burned, they show an Army soldier very briefly. The soldier looked like Hardy to me. My guess is that it wasn’t Hardy but another soldier that Glass killed based on comments from his trapping party. BUT it sure looked like Hardy! Can you expound on that? Thanks!

I think this is a fascinating, breathtaking film. It was also an ordeal – I spilled my drink twice, the crotch of my jeans still smells faintly of Don Q and coke.

In the final scene, McKenzie jeeringly proclaims “this wont bring your boy back”. At this point it seems Glass has lost it all, and that the entire odyssey was a waste. Yet as Taylor explains, it is when Glass refuses to kill, just releasing McKenzie into the river, that he perhaps finds some kind of closure…

What I still need to know, is what his wife says to him. It isn’t translated, though it seems to bring Glass to some kind of resolution. Why isnt it translated? What does she say?

Or is it all nonsense, and is that final wide eyed stare from Di Caprio showing us how lost he is?

I’m not a huge fan of Leanardo but he is amazing in this movie. Excellent acting!! I loved Evey bit of this movie.

Wondering if you have a view on the lost bear cloak. Or did I miss something? It appears that he loses the bear cloak when he jumps off the cliff with the horse.

Can anyone tell me if they used a “real horse”, to go over the cliff,or,I hope it was,CGI?If the director used a real horse,that’s killing an animal,then,where were the animal advocates?I hope no animals were harmed in this movie!

Heheheh, Pretty realistic wasn’t it? No, the end of that scene was CGI, promise.

Hm, frankly I thought they overdid the water scenes to the point of absurdity. When you fall into icy water, even completely healthy and without any injuries whatsoever and then get back into the cold, still wearing your clothes that quickly turn into a hard and ice cold vise and spend the night that way, without fire or any warmth then I’m pretty sure you’re not going to live long. And it’s not that he did that once or twice, no he did it all the time. Even waded into ice cold water when there was no need to do so. I sincerely doubt if that’s how it happened.

Both Glass and his wife knew that as long he had breath left in him that he had to keep on fighting, he just couldn’t give up and die. That’s why he was left so emotional when his wife walked away. He knew that it wasn’t time to be with his family

He told his son to keep fighting when he was about to die at the beginning of the film, and know he has to tell this to himself at the end.

That’s why you here strong breathing when the screen cuts to the credits

The Indian women who who was being raped by the french guy and who was helped by Glass in her escape was with the Indians at the end.

She told her dad to spare his life.

Do you have any ideas about the symbolic nature of the abandoned church? I was finding it hard to believe that a church could have been built, and abandoned in this area before the mid 1800s (or whenever the movie was set). I understand that the basis of exploration was for trade and the spread of religion, however I find the abandoned church to be unlikely. What do you think?

AMAZING EXPLANATION!!! Thanks for doing the research and shining light on the true story as well. It was dearly interesting to read your article and compare it with the movie. Such a fantastic film with an enthralling story line :)

Adding on to my previous comment, I was wondering if you had any opinions regarding the ending of the movie. Was the Native American chief ever able to find his daughter? Was the woman that was getting raped by the French (and eventually saved by Glass) the Chief’s daughter or was that another Native woman? And at the final scene of the film where the Chief and Glass crossed paths, was the Native woman that Glass saved on one of the horses? Thanks!

Question – is it possible that Leo’s Pawnee wife was the Chief’s missing daughter? I have trouble reconciling the fact that the French, whom the Chief dealt with regularly, had his daughter captive the whole time. Plus, moments before Leo saves the girl, the Frenchman Toussaint exclaims, “bring me the girl, those horses weren’t free.” I thought that suggested that the girl was willingly traded for the horses (also in the bartering process the French mentioned they wanted a girl). I guess it would be hard to explain how they Chief didn’t know that Leo and his daughter were together, or that she was eventually killed in a raid, but I thought there were some strong suggestions that she was the daughter that “ran off” with him, and the redeeming connection was Leo’s son – whose dead body the Chief comes across. Is this even possible?

“… the bear mauling. … please tell me how they did this shoot. … CGI? Obviously not. …”

Why is it so “obvious” that it’s not CGI? After all, the tiger in ‘Life of Pi’ is entirely CGI, why not this bear too?

Yes, it was the chief’s daughter who was being used as a sex slave by the French trappers. (BTW, the _same_ trappers who gave the Indians arms and ammunition [and reluctantly eventually horses] to search for the chief’s daughter:-) And yes, that was the woman riding behind the chief at the end. The fact that Glass abetted her escape was enough to keep him from being killed …but not enough to get the Indians to actually stop and touch and aid him. It’s not clear to me whether or not they knew he was badly wounded and would probably die if they didn’t stop. I wish I could have more thoroughly followed the dialog when the lone French trapper came into the fort – as my _guess_ was the chief’s daughter, when she eventually met up with the chief, told him enough of what actually happened to result in the Indians attacking the French trappers and killing all but that one. In any case, I’d like very much to hear what this all means, as I’ve had no luck making much sense of it myself.

I just saw The Revenant today. However, I knew Leonardo DiCaprio was/is deserving of his first Oscar after seeing the trailer. I rooted for him to win for The Wolf of Wall Street, and now it’s his year. I feel the film was epic, harrowing and haunting. Innaritu should get Best Director and the Revenant Best Film.

I can’t believe there’s only one mention of that final stare at the camera. It ruined the film for me. Don’t get it at all. I assume there is some specific reason, as innaritu makes the effort to emphasise the camera in earlier scenes ie blood and breath on the lens. For me I found it contradicted the natural way in which every other aspect of the story was shot and told. Also, not sure Leo deserves an Oscar for this. He is far better in Wolf of Wall st. But let’s remember that oscars are not a true reflection of talent. Just look at his nomination for Blood Diamond!

Dude, quit trolling.

I actually started to write about my interpretation of the final scene, but when I remembered you had written that Hugh Glass didn’t kill Ryan Hardy’s character per what you read, I decided not to. But here goes. Hugh’s son reminded him of the story his mother used to tell about the wind, the strong tree trunk, etc. When Hugh was suffering and needed to go on, he had visions of his wife where she retold the story in her native language with subtitles. This recurred at his lowest points during the film until she only spoke without the use of subtitles. That is, until the last scene, when she smiled at him and turned. I think he followed her to the next life. He had already said he was not afraid of dying and now that he sought revenge, he was ready to go.

I enjoy your writing. I enjoy every comment. Thanks a lot. One question, Glass saving the daughter of the chief was a true event?

Aren’t you kind?!? No, there was no Indian Chief’s daughter that was saved by Glass in real life that he wrote about or told stories about. He did live with the Indians for a while, but nothing strange or wild happened while he was there.

Taylor Ps – I just realized that a ton of you have commented here since this post. Somehow I wasn’t getting notifications. I’ll try and work through some of your comments and questions when I get a moment.

The reason I haven’t responded is because I know what you are referring to, but I have no idea what you are talking about. The ending is poignant because he chose NOT to kill him. He let up. He allowed justice to be placed in the hands of God. And yet, the audience gets their justice from the hands of the Indian Chief. The look was their sharing this insight, this knowledge. That look was the deeper lesson he learned and the importance of it. To me it seems a little intense that this moment would be the one to hang you up. Especially in a movie this intense and this crazy good. But whatever.

Please explain your interpretation of the cease scene where Fitzgerald and the young trapper are cooking meat. I believe they were eating dead Indian and not hogs. Those ribs hanging by the fire looked like human ribs. Fitzgerald was telling a tale and sounded extremely demented I felt his sick mind really was revealed in this scene. He also asked the young boy to look away at the end of the scene. Why do you think he said this? In my mind this degenerate,disgusting man may have used a corpse to satisfy his sexual urges.

To ellaborate on what you said earlier Taylor, that Hugh Glass envisioned his wife when he was in times of need, but at the end of the film he has avenged his family and he doesn’t need them anymore. It is up to interpretation obviously, but this is my version of it.

This is one of the BEST 5 movies I have ever seen in my 53 years. My Lord! They stepped it up to a COMPLETE OTHER LEVEL! Amazing Cast, amazing acting and just “off the chain”!

I found the church scene particularly powerful. When Glass approaches the church, it is in a state of advanced decay, nature is balancing out what man had created. There in that balance between the western religious physical structure and imagery (you see Hades or whoever eating that guy), he meets his son. His son, who was half native and half western European, stands in the middle of the church. The decaying church itself is half nature (representing the native world view) and half western religion. In that moment, who is to say why his son appeared? Was it a hallucination? Was it his spirit? To me it showed the ridiculousness of labeling that which we do not understand (even if it was only a hallucination) as this or that religion. I’m having a very hard time articulating what I think Iñárritu was trying to convey.

Lol, y’all do some research. He didn’t have a son. There was no documention of it if he did. The group paid two explorers to stay behind and give him a proper burial. As he had sustained the wounds from a bear attack. Glass eventually caught up with the group and forgave them. He didn’t see anyone kill a son he may not have had. Lololol people see based on or inspired by true events and take it to heart thinking it’s real.

Some parts of this movie didn’t make any sense at all. Especially at the end. Who was that woman? Where did she come from? I felt really bad for DiCaprio’s horse. The horse became a shelter for DiCaprio! Was she his wife? If it was, it was never told in the movie.

Thanks for this resource, it is really cool (sorry couldn’t think of a better adjective, it is early on the west coast). I like that it is simple and relatively easy to understand. I guess this is the appeal in the children aspect that it is something they can grasp and engage with.

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Great film has the power to convey the unimaginable. We sit in the comfort of a darkened theater or our living room and watch protagonists suffer through physical and emotional pain that most of us can’t really comprehend. Too often, these endurance tests feel manipulative or, even worse, false. We’re smart enough to “see the strings” being pulled, and the actor and set never fades away into the character and condition. What’s remarkable about Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s “The Revenant” is how effectively it transports us to another time and place, while always maintaining its worth as a piece of visual art. You don’t just watch “The Revenant,” you experience it. You walk out of it exhausted, impressed with the overall quality of the filmmaking and a little more grateful for the creature comforts of your life.

Iñárritu and co-writer Mark L. Smith set their tone early, staging a breathtaking assault on a group of fur trappers by Native Americans, portrayed not just as “enemies” but a violent force of nature. While a few dozen men are preparing to pack up and move on to their next stop in the great American wilderness, a scene out of “ Apocalypse Now ” unfolds. Arrows pierce air and flesh as the few surviving men flee to a nearby boat. It turns out that the tribe is seeking a kidnapped daughter of its leader, and will kill anyone who gets in their way. At the same time, we learn that one of the trappers, Hugh Glass ( Leonardo DiCaprio ) has a half-Native American son named Hawk (Forrest Goodluck).

Low on men and hunted, the expedition leader Andrew Henry ( Domhnall Gleeson ) orders that their crew return to its base, a fort in the middle of this snowy wilderness. John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) disagrees, and the seeds of dissent are planted. He doesn’t trust Henry, and he doesn’t like Glass. In the midst of these discussions, Glass is away from the crew one day when he’s brutally attacked by a bear—the sequence is, without hyperbole, one of the most stunning things I’ve seen on film in a long time, heart-racing and terrifying. Glass barely survives the attack. It seems highly unlikely that he’ll make it back to the base. With increasingly dangerous conditions and a tribe of killers on their heels, they agree to split up. Most of the men will go back first while Fitzgerald, Hawk and a young man named Bridger ( Will Poulter ) will get a sizable fee to stay with Glass until he dies, giving him as much comfort as possible in his final days and the burial he deserves.

Of course, Fitzgerald quickly tires of having to watch a man he doesn’t care about die. He kills Hawk in front of an immobile Glass and then basically buries Hugh alive. As Bridger and Fitzgerald head back, Glass essentially rises from the dead (the word revenant means “one that returns after death or a long absence”) and begins his quest for vengeance. With broken bones, no food, and miles to go, he pulls himself through snow and across mountains, seeking the man who killed his son. He is practically a ghost, a man who has come as close to death as one possibly can but is unwilling to go to the other side until justice is done.

The bulk of “The Revenant” consists of this torturous journey, as Glass regains his strength and gets closer to home through sheer force of will. Iñárritu’s Oscar-winning cinematographer for “ Birdman ,” Emmanuel Lubezki (who also took a trophy for “ Gravity ” the year before and could easily make it three in a row for this work) shoots “The Revenant” in a way that conveys both the harrowing conditions and the artistry of his vision. The sky seems to go on forever; the horizon is neverending. He works in a color palette provided by nature, and yet enhanced. The snow seems whiter, the sky bluer. Many of his shots, especially in times of great danger like the opening attack and the bear scene, are unbroken — placing us in the middle of the action.

At other times, Lubezki’s choices recall his work on “The Tree of Life,” especially in scenes in the second half when Glass’s journey gets more mystical. And that’s where the film falters a bit.  Iñárritu  doesn’t quite have a handle on those second-half scenes and the 156-minute running time begins to feel self-indulgent as the film loses focus. When it centers on the conditions and the tale of a man unwilling to die, it’s mesmerizing. I just think there’s a tighter version, especially in the mid-section, that would be even more effective.

About that man: So much has been made of this film being DiCaprio’s “Overdue Oscar” shot that I feel like his actual work here will be undervalued. Make no mistake. Should he win, it will not be some “Lifetime Achievement” win as we’ve seen in the past for actors who we all thought should have won for another film ( Paul Newman , Al Pacino , etc.). He’s completely committed in every terrifying moment, pushing himself further than he ever has before as an actor. Even just the physical demands of this protagonist would have been enough to break a lot of lesser actors, but it’s the way in which DiCaprio captures his internal fortitude that’s captivating—his body may be broken, but we believe he is unwilling to give up.

The minimal supporting cast is good, and it’s nice to see Gleeson continue to have an incredible 2015 (also in “ Brooklyn ,” “ Ex Machina ” and “ Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens ”). Tom Hardy is less effective, often going a little too heavy on the tics (wide eyes, shot up-close), but I think that’s a fault of the direction and not one of our best actors. In the end, this is DiCaprio’s film through and through, and he nails every challenging beat, literally throwing himself into this character that demands more of him physically than any other before. 

What would you do for vengeance? What conditions could you surmount to get it? Or would you just give up? Our favorite films often drop questions like these into our lives, allowing us to appreciate the world a little differently than before we saw them. “The Revenant” has this power. It lingers. It hangs in the back of your mind like the best classic parables of man vs. nature. It will stay there for quite some time. 

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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The Revenant (2015)

Rated R for strong frontier combat and violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity.

156 minutes

Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass

Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald

Will Poulter as Jim Bridger

Domhnall Gleeson as Andrew Henry

Paul Anderson as Anderson

Brad Carter as Johnnie

Kristoffer Joner as Murphy

Brendan Fletcher as Fryman

Joshua Burge as Stubby Bill

Robert Moloney as Dave Chapman

  • Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • Mark L. Smith
  • Michael Punke

Director of Photography

  • Emmanuel Lubezki
  • Stephen Mirrione
  • Bryce Dessner
  • Carsten Nicolai
  • Ryûichi Sakamoto

Production Design

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The Revenant: Review & Analysis

By PoutyBoy in Reviews January 24, 2016

You gotta have expectations. I mean, you walk into a movie and try to be as open-minded and as objective as possible. But there is always that one film that is composed out of all these factors and you just can’t possibly imagine it being bad. For me, that film was “The Revenant”. Let’s look at it in detail… It stars my favorite actor, Leonardo DiCaprio. The main villain is played by Tom Hardy, whom I’ve learned to love and respect. The cast also had Domhnall Gleeson and Captain Eyebrows (real name Will Pouter). The director is Alejandro Inarrito and the cinematography is composed out of the same guy who shot “Birdman”. I mean, a movie like that, you gotta expect it to be good… Was it?

Yes. “The Revenant” is one of the best films I have seen… ever.

I watched it with a couple of friends of mine, only one of which being movies fan like myself. One of my friends did not like the movie at all and my other two friends liked it, but couldn’t watch it properly because of all the gore. Of course, my movie-understanding friend loved “The Revenant”. What am I trying to say? Well, it’s a tough production and it’s certainly not for everyone. The film is extremely naturalistic; every fight scene, every survival scene, and every dramatic scene is shot the way it would have actually happened. The fight scenes are chaotic and bloody. My friends were disgusted by the reality the film depicted. I myself left the movie theater feeling emotionally exhausted.

I can’t stress how good this film is.

“The Revenant” is symbolism and metaphors with a story. The film presents and number of themes and motifs and does so in a new and original way. It’s impossible to make a movie nowadays that goes in depth of a theme that another movie hasn’t analyzed already. The ideas “The Revenant” makes are not new, but are presented in an original and fascinating manner. Firstly, the movie does not specify the setting; we don’t know when it happens (although by the story we can guess it’s around the 18 th century) and we don’t know where it happens (this is on purpose; the idea is that Hugh is at the end of the world and comes back from Hell and goes even beyond that (continuing to search for Fitzgerald after reaching the cabin) to find revenge). The general arch of the film depicts the theme of man vs. nature and survival, which the movie doesn’t really analyze that hard, given that Hugh’s survival is shown by the things he lives through and doesn’t need an analysis. Themes and motifs the film does analyze are:

  • I can guarantee the director of “The Revenant” is an atheist, given that the movie completely rejects religion as a source of hope and salvation. First of all, the only character in the entire film mentioning the name of God is the villain, Fitzgerald. Next, there is a whole monologue Tom Hardy says about how God is actually survival (the squirrel metaphor). Also, in one of Hugh’s visions, his son is standing alone in an abandoned and destroyed church, still looking for salvation after death. Finally, Hugh does not kill Fitzgerald; he gives up the only thing that has been driving him to survive because “God must take his life”, subconsciously suggesting that God is the thing that prevents him from taking that he has been reborn to do.
  • Family as a driving power. As mentioned above, Hugh is not driven by religion, but by his dead wife and son. There are numerous times in which Hugh dreams or has visions about his wife. He always sees her above or in front of him, metaphorically guiding the way and being a reason for him to move forward.
  • Greed/racism/generalization. Fitzgerald’s greed for money driving him to do despicable things + his hate towards all Native Americans for what they did to him.
  • Connection between characters. The movie suggests that all characters are the same, each being torn apart by a different demon. The most obvious example is that of Hugh and the Native American who helps him. He too has lost his family and is on the way to revenge. He helps Hugh and pretty much saves his life, only to end up strangled. Also, there is a ten second scene in which Fitzgerald is depicted as Hugh. In the scene, a red comet goes by Fitzgerald. After that we see Hugh in one of his visions about the pyramid, looking at a comet like shape. To me, this scene suggests that they are both bound by different demons and are both stuck in their own timeless and spaceless universe.
  • Man alone vs. Man with people. This is an unusual one and a big one. The idea is that Hugh goes through all kinds of trouble when he is with people; his kid dies, he almost gets killed by a bear, etc. So when Hugh is buried alive and left to die by Captain Eyebrows, the kid leaves his flask with a carved spiral on it. To me, this is a symbol for all hope and survival Hugh has which is formed by other people. Even though Hugh is alive, he is very hurt and basically dying during most of his time wondering in the wilderness. He is physically dependant on that flask for water. However, it also represents his need for others to take care of him, his hope based on humans. And although some may see the moment in which he drops the flask as a mere plot-device, it’s not; After Hugh drops it, he spends a final night in need for help from others, in this case represented by him sleeping inside another living thing to keep his life. After the night ends, he is finds salvation (winter has ended) and is ready to finish his quest alone , both literally and metaphorically. Also, when Hugh goes after Fitzgerald with the Captain we see him holding a flask with not spiral on it, representing that he is still capable of finishing his mission alone. Next, at the end of the film Hugh once again sees his wife in front of him, guiding him. Then he looks directly at the camera. To me, this shows that after Hugh didn’t kill Fitzgerald himself, he didn’t achieve the thing he was reborn to do and goes back to being dependant on others and seeks comfort even in the face of those watching.

We got background knowledge on just the characters we needed to do so: a lot Hugh and Fitzgerald (to stress why they hate each other and to develop the theme that they are the same) and a little bit on the Native American guy who helped Hugh, again to stress the similarities between characters (in this case, between him and Hugh). As for character development… The path of survival and for revenge, the whole main arch of this film, was the source of development for Hugh, which was logical and appropriate. At the very end of “The Revenant”, Hugh has Fitzgerald in his hands ready to kill him. He sees the Native Americans on the other side of the river and lets go of Fitzgerald, saying that God should be the one taking his life. Although one could see this as another disclaimer of religion (the scene suggests that religion is the thing that prevents Hugh from taking the thing he was reborn to take), I found it pushed and out of place. It didn’t fit in at all with Hugh’s character development so far and didn’t really feel as a disclaimer for religion, too. Hugh’s character development was about him becoming tough and by not killing Fitzgerald because of God (religion is opposed to survival in the film, so God is exactly what Hugh hasn’t been looking up to) Hugh goes back to being lost and dependant on other men, which is showed when he sees him wife in front of him and seeks hope even in the face of the public when he looks straight into the camera in the very last shot. It’s a real and tragic ending to Hugh’s character, yes, but it felt a bit pushed. Next, none of the other secondary character developed very much. I don’t find it bad, since we were introduced to certain types of people (the Captain, Fitzgerald, Captain Eyebrows) who represented parts of society and didn’t have the necessary plot points for them to develop; it didn’t feel needed that those characters develop. Fitzgerald character didn’t develop at all, but I reckon this was on purpose, since he is the main antagonist and is needed to stay the same for Hugh to reach redemption and to get his revenge.

Directing and cinematography

I’m not even sure how “The Revenant” was made. This is probably the most beautiful film I have ever seen. The cinematography is unbelievable and the fact that the whole film was shot only in natural light makes it even more amazing. The editing was incredible: those still shots of the environment at the beginning of every scene were so beautiful. And I just have to talk about the visual effects, especially the bear. That was a one shot scene in which Leonardo DiCaprio’s character was NOT CGI-ed, but the bear was. How that interaction between the real actor and a CGI bear happened I cannot explain to myself, but it was amazing. The fight scenes in the film were brutally real (which made them great because it was needed for the plot and the meaning of the film) and shot originally and precise. The last fight scene was freaking unbelievable, it looked and felt tense and real. The long shots were very beautiful and the fact that “The Revenant” was so real and bloody made it a revelation and emotionally exhausting. Also, I can’t not mention the sound editing and mixing, which was always on point and original. I’m not even gonna discuss the directing; given that this is a film with so many original ideas and methods for making, one can guess that the directing of it all was hard and obviously successful, since everything in the “The Revenant” worked and fulfilled its purpose. The one thing I didn’t like in this movie were the fifteen minutes after the Captain died in which Hugh was going after Fizgerald; they seemed dragged and unneeded, but it didn’t really bother me since everything else was perfect.

Leonardo DiCaprio got lost in this role. He got lost and you could see it in his acting and in his eyes. He became Hugh Glass and it was amazing. I thought that it was gonna be all dramatic acting, suffering and crying, etc. It wasn’t; there were scenes in which Hugh found joy in the little things and Leo showed us a whole different ray of emotions (eating snowflakes scene) and it was clear that the actor took the role at heart. The fact is that Hugh as a character did not experience that many different things, but the things that he did experience were depicted brilliantly by Leo. Tom Hardy… what a great year for him, huh? “Mad Max”, “Legend”, “The Revenant”… This was one of Tom Hardy’s best performances ever, he was so good at making us hate this character. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t see Tom Hardy… I saw the little f****r Fitzgerald and hated him. I maybe wanted just a tad more from the secondary characters, but that was probably because Leo and Tom were so great every other actor’s acting seemed not as good.

“The Revenant” is 95% perfection. It’s an extremely serious and deep movie. Most people wouldn’t grasp even half of what the film is trying to say, but I did my best to explain it all in this review. The film is original and meaningful. It’s so real and influential it made me stick to my seat the whole time. I felt emotions while watching “The Revenant” I have never felt during any other film. The plot was original and extremely deep and meaningful, the cinematography, editing, sound editing, and visual effects were incredible, the acting was so real it made me lose myself, and the directing as a whole was a revelation. Wow. What a great film.

  • Characters: 3/3.5
  • Directing: 3.5/3.5
  • Cinematography: 3/3
  • Acting: 3.75/4
  • Did it make me think: 1/1
  • Did I overall like it: 1/1

Total: 9.6/10

P.S. If you think this is a usual score using the new grading system, you are wrong. This is the highest score I’ve given a film with this new system (or ever?), the second highest being 8.9 for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Let that sink in…

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Tags: Alejandro G. Iñárritu , amazing , analysis , cinematography , leonardo , leonardo dicaprio , oscars , revenant , review , tom hardy , Will Poulter

The Revenant : Beauty and Brutality in Equal Measure

While Alejandro Iñárritu’s new film displays uncommon grace, it can be hard to endure.

revenant movie symbolism

“It’s okay, son. I know you want this to be over.” This is a brave voiceover with which to open a movie that consists of two-and-a-half hours of almost nonstop violence, injury, and privation. In context, it serves as a father’s comforting words to his son. But it could as easily represent a filmmaker’s warning to his audience.

Fortunately, while Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant is frequently a grueling experience, it is also a profoundly rewarding one, a film that balances beauty and brutality in extraordinary equipoise.

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A Journey Into the Animal Mind

Based on the 2002 novel by Michael Punke (itself based on the experiences of the real-life fur trapper Hugh Glass), the movie tells a primal story of survival and vengeance. In 1823, a large hunting party is on the verge of completing its six-month mission in the wintry wildernesses of Montana and South Dakota when it’s set upon by a band of warriors from the Ree tribe. After most of the men are killed in the encounter, those remaining ask their experienced tracker, Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), to guide them safely back to their barracks outpost.

Glass, however, is soon mauled by a bear, and though he manages to kill the animal, he’s direly wounded—his throat slashed open and his back torn to ribbons. Presuming his imminent death, the leader of the expedition, Captain Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), leaves him behind with three men to bury him when the time comes: Glass’s half-Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck); another young hunter, Jim Bridger (Will Poulter); and an older man, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), with mercenary motives and no love for Glass. In short order, Fitzgerald kills Hawk and tricks Bridger into leaving Glass for dead.

But Glass does not die. He rises from his shallow grave and, like Hercules with the Nemean lion, wraps himself in the pelt of his bear. He then crawls, floats, and hobbles across hundreds of frozen, desolate miles in a quest to find Fitzgerald and avenge his son. Along the way, he’s hounded by hostile natives (more than once), tumbles down cliffs (more than once), and faces death by starvation and exposure (more or less continuously).

From this simple tale, Iñárritu has constructed an epic fable of uncommon grace and resonance, a film that, like its hero, achieves a kind of transcendence. The director is immeasurably aided in this achievement by his cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki. Shooting exclusively with natural light, Iñárritu and Lubezki craft a winter landscape at once pitiless and ravishing, a universe of muted grays: gray skies, gray snow, gray rock. (If these vistas recall Terrence Malick, it’s no coincidence: Lubezki shot the director’s last four films.)

As with Lubezki’s last two major projects, Gravity and Birdman , this isn’t merely an aesthetic achievement but a technical one as well. The attack that opens the film is a tour de force of action choreography, with tracking shots reminiscent of Lubezki’s work on Children of Men . And the bear attack is a complete stunner, without any true parallel that I can name. Moreover, the demands of weather and natural light forced principal photography to take place in a dozen locations in Canada, Argentina, and the United States, and a number of crew members quit or were fired over the course of the grueling shoot. The resulting film, however, has made Lubezki the odds-on favorite to win an unprecedented third consecutive Oscar for cinematography.

Hardy is marvelous as Fitzgerald, a self-justifying brute of a man with twitchy eyes and deep scars (some of them literal: He’s the survivor of an incomplete scalping). As he’s done in the past, Hardy vanishes utterly into the role; those unaware of his participation in the film might struggle even to recognize him.

And Leo? He is a more complicated case. He’s surely worthy of the many accolades that are being thrown his way. But I’m not certain how much of his work onscreen—and he is present in nearly every scene—is properly categorized as “acting.” DiCaprio’s commitment to the role is beyond dispute. The actor spent nine months in remote locales, in the snow and in icy water, frequently on the verge of hypothermia. He is completely persuasive in the role, but perhaps this is in part because onscreen he is enduring—obviously in lesser ways—the travails endured by Glass. Factor in that his character is largely mute throughout the film and that the emotions he conveys are inevitably both large in scale and limited in variety, and I am, again, unsure of how exactly to categorize the performance. It is, however, unquestionably a powerful one.

The Revenant is not without its flaws. Though there are intimations of moral complexity and ambiguity early on, they are abandoned in favor of disappointing dichotomies: Characters are gradually sorted into the uniformly kind, tolerant, and trustworthy on one side; and the lying, venal, and bigoted on the other.

And then there is its length. As stunning and immersive as The Revenant may be, 156 minutes is a long time for viewers to endure a portrait of endurance. (After all that has come before it, the movie’s final, bloody confrontation veers dangerously close to comedy.) Iñárritu’s film is one very much worth seeing, but be forewarned: You—like DiCaprio, and like the real Glass before him—will be out in the cold for a long time.

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The Revenant Ending, Explained

Tamal Kundu of The Revenant Ending, Explained

In its purest form, cinema is supposed to enthrall its audience by transporting them into its make-belief worlds and the characters that inhabit them through visual and auditory stimulations. ‘The Revenant,’ Alejandro González Iñárritu’s (‘Birdman’) revisionist western drama film based on the 2002 namesake novel by Michael Punke, goes a step further. It is so meticulous and evocative in its depiction of its characters’ struggles and urgency that the audience can feel them against their own skin and bones.

With the help of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (‘Gravity’) and co-scriptwriter Mark L. Smith (‘Martyrs’), Iñárritu has achieved something uniquely remarkable with ‘The Revenant,’ creating a film that is relentlessly gritty and dark in its portrayal of the American frontier. Yet, it bleeds with vivid beauty and the color of its setting in each scene. The film tells the story of fur trapper Hugh Glass ( Leonardo DiCaprio ) and his quest for vengeance against the man who killed his son and left him to die. Here is everything you need to know about the ending of ‘The Revenant.’ SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Revenant Plot Synopsis

The film is set in late 1823 in the seemingly limitless snowy territory of the present-day Dakotas. Glass and his half-Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), are part of a fur-trapping expedition led by Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) up the Missouri River. Danger lurks in the background, just beyond what naked eyes can see, taking the shape of the natives, local fauna, or nature itself.

As the trappers get ready to relocate to the next hotspot, they are ambushed by an Arikara war party searching for their chief’s abducted daughter, Powaqa (Melaw Nakehk’o). As the horror of a systematic slaughter unfolds around them, Glass, Hawk, and other survivors manage to escape their brutal attackers via a riverboat.

Accurately concluding that they will fall into the Arikara hands if they continue to travel by boat, Glass leads the survivors through the winter-struck landscape to Fort Kiowa. This means that the trappers have to leave most of the pelts they gathered during the expedition behind. It ends up creating a rift between Glass and fellow seasoned trapper John Fitzgerald ( Tom Hardy ).

revenant movie symbolism

While out on patrol, Glass is savagely mauled by a grizzly bear. On the verge of death, Glass is left by Captain Henry under the care of Hawk, Jim Bridger (Will Poulter), and John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), with the clear instructions that if Glass were to die, Fitzgerald must ensure that Glass has received a proper burial to earn the $300 that Henry promises him (Fitzgerald).

However, with the threat of the Arikara still looming over them and Glass showing no sign of dying, Fitzgerald decides to take matters into his own hands and tries to suffocate Glass. When Hawk intervenes, Fitzgerald kills the boy and hides his body. He later convinces Bridger that the Arikara are coming, and if they want to survive, they must leave Glass behind.

Back at Fort Kiowa, Fitzgerald tells the story of his choosing to Henry, with Bridger being reluctantly complicit in at least one of Fitzgerald’s crimes. However, what none of them ever think can be possible happens. From somewhere deep within him, Glass finds the desire to survive. He makes the arduous trek back to Fort Kiowa on his own, crawling, walking, and riding the hundreds of miles of distance with a rare single-mindedness of a man seeking justice and vengeance.

The Revenant Ending: Does Glass Get His Revenge Against Fitzgerald?

Yes, to a degree. Of course, Iñárritu isn’t Quentin Tarantino, and ‘The Revenant’ isn’t ‘Kill Bill.’ There is no melodrama or sensationalism in the violence that takes place at the end of the former movie. Instead, it is cold, detached, and beautiful in its profound savagery, like the rest of the film.

revenant movie symbolism

Early in the film, Iñárritu establishes the sheer dichotomy between his protagonist and antagonist simply by demonstrating their respective views on Native Americans. Those views guide their choices, and later, fatally culminate for one of them. Glass had a Pawnee wife, who was killed along with the rest of her tribe in an attack by the US Army.

He is still haunted by visions of his wife and a mountain of skulls. Despite the evident competition with the natives for resources, Glass doesn’t necessarily harbor any ill-will towards them. When he discovers that the Pawnee refugee, who saved his life, has been hanged by French hunters, he takes a brief detour from his main path of revenge, killing most of the hunters and freeing Powaqa.

revenant movie symbolism

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Fitzgerald. During his service in the Army, a tribe of Native Americans partially scalped him, which has filled Fitzgerald with immense hatred for them. This becomes glaringly evident in his treatment of Hawk. Ultimately, understanding the reasons behind these two individuals’ actions can offer us a window to grasp the ending.

If Fitzgerald is propelled forward by greed and self-preservation, Glass’ desire to continue living stems from his endless love for his son. Beyond vengeance, this is what keeps him alive in the harshest environment imaginable. In the climactic scene, when Glass has the vengeance he so desires within his reach, he recalls the words of his Pawnee savior, “Revenge is in the Creator’s hands.”

revenant movie symbolism

Those words resonate within him as he sends Fitzgerald downriver to the Arikara. With the wounds he has received during their vicious fight, Fitzgerald is not likely to survive the night. After all, he doesn’t have anyone who might have inspired the kind of desperation that Glass displays while surviving in the American Wilderness. So, it doesn’t ultimately matter what the Arikara decide. However, it is fundamentally ironic that, of all people, Fitzgerald gets his fate decided by Native Americans. And that, as Glass likely sees it, is vengeance in its truest sense.

What is Going to Happen to Glass? Will He Live On?

After Elk Dog (Duane Howard), the Arikara chieftain, kills and scalps Fitzgerald, they cross the river. In that particular moment, Glass is unsure about his fate. He has spent the past few weeks running away from the Arikara as he has chasing after Fitzgerald. But, now that he has his revenge, he waits for the Arikara with a surreal indifference. It is revealed that Powaqa is back with her tribe. She probably told her father what happened with the French hunters. The Arikara pass by Glass, and the hint of respect they show him before vanishing into the white surroundings is their way of offering gratitude.

revenant movie symbolism

After the Arikara’s departure, Glass drags himself into the mountains. For the first time, he finds himself truly alone and aimless. And he can’t feed the fire of vengeance any longer to keep himself going. “You came all this way for revenge, huh?” Fitzgerald asks him before dying. “Well you enjoy it Glass, because there ain’t nothing gonna bring your boy back.”

The film becomes ambiguous at this point. Glass sees another vision of his wife, which might indicate that he will soon die and join his family in the afterlife. However, he continues to breathe loudly and strongly as the credits begin rolling, showing that he still might have some willingness to live. If the latter is true, then the determined survivalist will find a way to make it back to the town.

Read More:  Is The Revenant Based on a True Story?

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The Incredible True Story Behind ‘The Revenant’

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

The highly acclaimed 2015 movie The Revenant stunned audiences with its gripping story and beautiful cinematography, weaving an epic tale of resilience and revenge.

Although the filmmakers took some liberties in bringing the story to life, the events shown in the movie are, remarkably, based on true events.

The Revenant was inspired by the story of Hugh Glass, an American frontiersman, fur trapper and explorer who operated around the Upper Missouri River in the early 19th century.

Illustration of Hugh Glass and his legendary bear attack published at the time for a newspaper.

Illustration of Hugh Glass and his legendary bear attack published at the time for a newspaper.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, in 1823 he was working as a guide for General William Henry Ashley, who intended to lead a fur trading expedition up the Missouri River.

Expeditions of this kind were a dangerous endeavor. Fur trapping parties were at risk of attack from Arikara warriors, and Ashley’s party soon suffered an assault that killed 15 people. Glass himself was wounded in the attack, which would be the catalyst for the Arikara War.

However, the risk of conflict was not the only danger facing the fur trading party. This region, in modern-day South Dakota, was wild country, populated by fearsome grizzly bears.

The 200 mile route of the 1823 odyssey by Glass.

The 200 mile route of the 1823 odyssey by Glass.

These great beasts could rise over 12 feet tall and typically weighed around three quarters of a ton. An encounter with a grizzly left little chance of survival.

One day, while scouting ahead of the rest of the party, Glass accidentally stumbled on a grizzly bear and her two cubs. He fired a shot straight into her chest, but the bear continued her attack.

A century after the events unfolded, the Milwaukee Journal published an article about the exploits of Hugh Glass.

A century after the events unfolded, the Milwaukee Journal published an article about the exploits of Hugh Glass.

According to The Telegraph, Glass was just able to hold her off with his hunting knife until his companions caught up with him and managed to kill the bear.

Glass was semi-unconscious, bleeding heavily and had suffered serious wounds on his limbs and torso, in addition to a fractured leg. His companions believed there was little hope of survival, and so they made him comfortable and waited for the inevitable. Take a closer look with the following video:

https://youtu.be/HfpOeVA87Ns

The next day, Glass showed little sign of improvement, but he clung persistently to life. Torn between a sense of loyalty to Glass and the need to move the company away from Arikara territory before they were attacked again, the leader of the group decided to pay two men to remain behind with Glass until he died.

Arikara warrior

Arikara warrior

These men were John Fitzgerald and a youth named Jim Bridger. They stayed with Glass for a week, but as the days passed, and Glass continued to struggle on, Fitzgerald became increasingly anxious.

He convinced Bridger to abandon Glass, arguing that there was no sense in all three men losing their lives. They took all the supplies and tools, leaving Glass utterly alone and defenseless.

Incredibly, Glass regained consciousness and gradually began to recover his strength. Initially he was unable to stand, but successfully dragged himself to a nearby river where he survived on water and whatever roots and berries he could find.

Some mountain men maintained a close relationship with the Native American tribes

Some mountain men maintained a close relationship with the Native American tribes

According to The Telegraph, he was forced to set his own broken leg, and allowed maggots to eat away at the dead flesh of his wounds to prevent gangrene. Later he feasted on the rotting meat of abandoned kills, and little by little, he began to drag himself towards the nearest settlement, Fort Kiowa, a staggering 250 miles away.

As the days passed, Glass grew stronger and was finally able to stand. One day he interrupted a group of wolves that had just killed a buffalo calf, and he knew that this would determine his survival. He chased away the pack and feasted on the carcass for several days.

Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Glass’s survival journey did not take place in the cold season, nor did it involve tall mountain ranges. Photo by Spencer CC BY-SA 2.5

Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Glass’s survival journey did not take place in the cold season, nor did it involve tall mountain ranges. Photo by Spencer CC BY-SA 2.5

Eventually he came to the Cheyenne River, where he was able to fashion a raft and float downstream to Fort Kiowa. At the forefront of his mind was the image of the faces of the two men who had abandoned him; he was determined to survive just in order to look them in the eye and have his revenge.

Finally, after six weeks of travel, Glass came to Fort Kiowa. Having recuperated from his ordeal, he was determined to seek out Fitzgerald and Bridger. He first encountered Bridger, but took mercy on him when he realized the boy’s youth and remorse for what he had done, under Fitzgerald’s instruction.

This life-size Hybrid Metal Art sculpture features Hugh Glass being mauled by a Grizzly Bear. Photo byJohn Lee Lopez CC BY-SA 4.0

This life-size Hybrid Metal Art sculpture features Hugh Glass being mauled by a Grizzly Bear. Photo by John Lee Lopez CC BY-SA 4.0

However, Glass was still consumed by rage against Fitzgerald. When he finally caught up with him, he discovered that Fitzgerald had signed up as a scout in the US army, making him effectively untouchable. Glass vowed that the day Fitzgerald left the army he would no longer be safe, and that he would pursue him to his death.

But Glass was never able to fulfill this promise. He returned to life as a guide and fur trapper, and eventually met his end at the hands of the Arikara in 1833. Although his life was cut short, Hugh Glass is remembered throughout the United States for his incredible feat of survival.

Read another story from us: William Wallace – The True Story Behind Scotland’s Most Famous Hero

There are no written sources from Glass himself concerning his ordeal, and the earliest written record is an account published in the literary journal The Portfolio. It is impossible to know how much of the story is fact, and how much is literary embellishment.

Nevertheless, it remains a timeless tale of endurance, tenacity and retribution, and it continues to resonate with readers and audiences today.

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Oscar Watch • The Revenant: Vengeance is God’s, and God Ain’t No Pacifist

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Though we don’t have the Oscar nominations yet, I labeled this as one of my 2015 Oscar Watch commentaries because after seeing it, I am confident of two things: 1. The Revenant will receive an Oscar nomination for best picture and best director, and 2. Leonardo DiCaprio will win best actor for his gut wrenching performance as the frontiersman Hugh Glass.

Alejandro Inarritu directed this vast, weighty, sprawling epic that tells the story as much through visual and visceral filmmaking as through its dramatic exploration of the primal urge for revenge. Yes, it is brutal, but it is also beautiful. And I don’t mean “beautiful brutality” as in a Tarantino film. I mean the fearful symmetry of life that is the fallen splendor of creation.

Inarritu interweaves words, visual, audio and emotional drama into a masterpiece of storytelling tapestry. This is the kind of movie that shows you the real fullness of what film can do that other media cannot. Something I have not seen in a while. As you watch the brutality of winter trappers fighting with local American native tribes over pelts, you sense, you feel the power of man against the elements and man against man, that these early Americans had to overcome. The bear attack is at once truly terrifying and yet profound in its incarnation of man vs. nature.

In the world of filmmaking, you have the “arthouse” movies that are so obsessed with being “creative,” that they result in boring pretentiousness. And you have the “Hollywood machine” movies that seek to be a drug fix of action adrenaline that can be empty and shallow. Inarritu manages to transcend both and bring it all. Action, beauty, art, human depth and story. He did it with the Oscar winner Birdman last year, an existentialist exploration of our search for significance, and this year, he just might do it again with The Revenant .

The reason I am so impressed with Inarritu is because he is like Terrence Malick with a good story. Although I don’t often agree with his worldview, I do appreciate his filmmaking as a unique and creative voice in cinema (See my commentaries on his thoughtful films 21 Grams , and Birdman ).

In The Revenant , he wrestles with the universal moral dilemma of revenge vs. justice. Bad revenge movies celebrate vigilanteism – or retribution outside the law (see my reviews of on The Punisher , Walking Tall , Sin City , A Time To Kill ) Good revenge movies sympathize with the universal human desire for justice against criminals, especially murderers, but also deal honestly with the spiritual reality that revenge destroys the soul of the vigilante. (see my commentaries for Man on Fire , The Equalizer ).

The Christian worldview proposes that God achieves justice, or in other words, his vengeance against criminals, legally through the state, not through personal vengeance outside of the law (Romans 12:19-13:5). Capital criminals deserve to die, but by the hand of the state and within the law. Of course, self defense is also a legitimate means for righteous violence (Exodus 22:2-3). But the main point is that certain evil men deserve to die, but if you do not achieve that justice through legal moral means, it will destroy you, and turn you into the very monster you seek to punish.

The Revenant brings in this spiritual dimension into the discussion in a way that other revenge movies sometimes miss. Hugh Glass is a man between worlds, a white man with a child from his marriage to a Pawnee woman, now dead. Don’t worry, no spoiling yet. This cinematic world has a fairly good balance of viewpoints within it. Yes, the Indians think the white man stole their land and their animals, but they also steal land and animals from each other, as well as from the white man, and the Indians kill each other as well. So there is no pristine “noble savage” nor thoroughly evil European here. All flawed, all human, too human.

At one point in the film, Hugh meets a Pawnee Indian whose family was wiped out by the Sioux. Hugh cannot understand why he is seeking to find more of his people to settle with rather than seeking revenge on the offending warriors. The Pawnee tells him, “Revenge is in the Creator’s hands.” This becomes a thematic challenge to Hugh’s own personal journey of revenge. And the moral issue that is addressed with thoughtful poignancy through the movie.

The villain, John Fitzgerald, played masterfully simple and real by Tom Hardy is an atheist, and fellow trapper who is guilty of atrocities. At one point, he tells a story about a fellow who found God. That fellow looked up in the air, and then climbed a tree, and found God. And God was a squirrel. So he “shot and ate the son of a bitch.” This is a brilliant encapsulation of the mockery of the atheist worldview and it is villainous pretentions.

Keep reading to find out how the ending embodies the moral theme of the movie…

SPOILER ALERT: How the ending embodies the moral theme of the movie

When Hugh faces down Fitzgerald in their mano-a-mano fight to the death at the end, it is a very brutal affair. But just when Hugh is about to kill Fitzgerald, he sees the Indian warriors downstream who had been seeking to save their woman from a band of French trappers. A band that Hugh had actually freed the woman from. Hugh repeats the Pawnee’s dictum, “Revenge in in God’s hands, not mine.” Instead of killing Fitzgerald, he dumps him into the stream to float downriver and be killed by the Indians. Those Indians, who hate the white man, wreak their vengeance on Fitzgerald, but choose not to kill Hugh, because they have the Indian woman he had saved with them. So it was his act of sacrifice in saving the woman that saved his life, the opposite of taking a life. It was his goodness that brought peace between him and the Native Americans.

And the criminal receives his just punishment of death, so justice is satisfied. It would have been wrong to let him go without punishment, because then the crime would not be paid for and justice would not be satisfied. That would be injustice, and the blood of the innocent would cry from the ground. Thus, pacifism and anti-capital punishment is a morally and spiritually bankrupt approach to law and justice.

This movie is quite profound, yet not without its flaws. I am going to be nitpicky here. I still think the story works well as it is because the metaphor is embodied in the story. But I do think we need to have clear moral compasses, and so I offer this critique.

While I applaud the notion that vengeance is in God’s hands, it is important to understand that that does not mean that we can never kill anyone in self defense (Exodus 22:2-3). The main import of the Christian worldview is that the state punishes and executes, and that is how God achieves his justice. It is not some spiritual mumbo jumbo suggesting God will do so spiritually or circumstantially in the criminal’s life. It is the notion that the state is precisely God’s hand in the matter (Romans 12:19-13:5). This is why vigilanteism is wrong, because our first course should be through legal means. If the state is itself corrupt, then the moral parameters may change, but that is a different discussion for another movie (the issue of civil disobedience).

But I would argue that Hugh actually had all legal and moral right to kill Fitzgerald. By the time Hugh found the murderer, Hugh was legally deputized and helping the captain hunt for the killer. Hugh was within the law. And Fitzgerald had killed the captain, and was trying to kill Hugh. So, realistically, Hugh had every moral and spiritual right, allowed by his Creator, to kill Fitzgerald. And in actual fact, floating the guy downstream to be killed by the Indians is the same thing as killing him, it’s just helping someone else to do it. Which is morally the same thing. So, technically, the metaphor breaks down in this movie.

But regardless of what the director may have been intending, I believe that the moral point is incarnate in the choices and consequences of the story: Vengeance is God’s, and God ain’t no pacifist.

12 comments on “ Oscar Watch • The Revenant: Vengeance is God’s, and God Ain’t No Pacifist ”

Brian, Thanks for a thoughtful review. I’m intrigued to see this movie. Since I was a kid growing up in Montana, I’ve been familiar with the incredible story of Hugh Glass. I wasn’t sure if this was going to be just another violent Hollywood movie not worth watching, but now I will. p.s. I thought your movie To End All Wars was one of the best ever. I hope you’ll make more!

Thanks, Bill. I didn’t know the story was an old one. Is it a true story?

Brian, The basic outline of the story is true. It’s been told and retold many times over the years. Wikipedia has a lengthy writeup on Hugh Glass with many references. I’m sure that this latest movie takes many artistic liberties, so it would be “based on a true story.”

“based on a true story”

Or, put in movie trailer speak: “Inspired by true events.”

  • Pingback: Review: ‘The Revenant’ |

Thanks for the insightful review! Reading the true account, it looks like the son and wife are embellished/Hollywood add on, albeit a good one. ?

Thanks for the review. Camera work in this movie was astounding! SPOILERS– I was wondering what your thoughts were of the seemingly two distinct re-birth (“born-again”) scenes? and why two?

Hi, Troy. I guess I didn’t catch the two rebirth scenes. Wasn’t the first one, a resurrection as he came out of the grave?

The first is soon after he comes out of the river (baptism?), and meets the Native with the buffalo. The native tells him that his body is rotten and he may die. Glass soon passes out and the Native man builds a hut over Glass. Then he emerges from that darkness of that hovel. Is this the “grave” you meant? I also think that there is significance in the Christian church and paintings when he sees his son. As if Glass is reassured that his son understood his teachings as faulty as they may have been. It is as if his son is with God. Glass sees significance in the idea of a Creator.

I meant when Glass was first being buried by the river and left for dead, as the resurrection.

The second birth scene would be his coming out of the horse… There were also two scenes of Glass fogging up the camera, which seemed significant. Also, that whole dream in the abandoned church… There’s a lot of symbolism there (his son is seen as a black goat for a brief second, he crosses water as he enters the church, etc…). I’d have to see it again to get a better handle on it.

Anyways, my main point for posting was in regards to the ending. Even if Glass is deputized, he clearly states, after the Captain fails in convincing him to rest and let him take care of it, that he is seeking revenge… So even if his actions are legally justified, it’s his heart that stands to lose if he carried it out (although you’re point remains about him essentially doing it by handing him over to the Indians). Fitzgerald says something like “this won’t bring your son back” and that’s when Glass stops, sees the Indians, and sends him downstream. The fact is, while revenge didn’t bring his son back, his perseverance did bring back a lost child and my thought is that is what dawned on Glass when he saw her. I may have misremembered some details though.

You make good points about the revenge versus justice theme. That is why I still accept it because I agree that they are making a spiritual point about his heart. So even if in the real world, it is much harder to delineate such things, I think the art does bring home a good message of justice versus revenge. Thanks for your feedback!

Comments are closed.

Notes From The Frontier

  • Mar 21, 2020

The True Story Behind The Revenant

Updated: May 4, 2023

revenant movie symbolism

One of my all-time favorite movies is the multiple-Oscar-winning frontier movie, The Revenant (meaning one who returns, especially from the dead ) . It is one of the most realistic, gritty, and magnificently beautiful depictions of life in the early frontier. Viewing the movie, you can see, hear, smell, even feel the reality of that harsh but exciting existence. I also love the movie because it is based on a true story—one of the most amazing frontier stories ever told—of frontiersman Hugh Glass and his epic survival in the wilderness after being mauled nearly to death by a grizzly, then left for dead by his companions.

revenant movie symbolism

Glass was born to immigrant Irish parents in Pennsylvania and at an early age took off to seek adventure. In 1822 he joined General William Ashley’s corps of 100 men to ascend to the Missouri River as part of a fur-trading venture. Many of the men of the corps would later become famous frontiersmen, including James Beckwourth, Thomas Fitzpatrick, and Jim Bridger, in addition to Hugh Glass.

In the first year of the expedition, Glass was shot in the leg by attacking Arikara. Frontiersmen were successful in trading with many tribes and cultivated cordial relationships, but the Arikara remained distrustful of and hostile to the early whites. The next year the corps set out to explore the Yellowstone River when Glass, scouting for game for the expedition near Grand River (in today’s Perkins County, South Dakota) when he surprised a she-bear with two cubs. She charged, picked him up and shook him several times, pinned him to the ground, clawed him and took his flesh in her jaws, ripping his back and chest open, leaving the ribs exposed. He was left mortally mauled.

Below is a famous bear attack scene in The Revenant.

VIDEO- The Revenant bear attack scene:

https://youtu.be/alR7NLDyPig

revenant movie symbolism

The corps carried Glass on a litter for two days, but slowed the pace. Two volunteers, Thomas Fitzpatrick and Jim Bridger, offered to stay with him until he died. They later claimed that they began digging his grave, when Arikara attacked. They grabbed all the arms and equipment, including Glass’s rifle and knife, and left him for dead, completely defenseless. Later, when they caught up with the corps, Fitzgerald and Bridger reported to the general that Glass had died.

But the story does not end there. Glass regained consciousness. He had lost a great deal of blood, his leg was broken, his back mutilated and his chest ripped open. He was 200 miles from the nearest settlement, Fort Kiowa. Glass set the bone on his own leg and bound his wounds with grass and a mud poultice. Cloaked in a bear hide that had been left on him as a shroud , he began crawling toward Fort Kiowa. He allowed the maggots to thrive in his wounds, eating the rotting flesh to prevent gangrene.

revenant movie symbolism

When he reached the Cheyenne River, about half way to Fort Kiowa, he fashioned a crude raft of tree limbs bound with willow and grasses and floated the rest of the way to Fort Kiowa. He survived on roots and wild berries.

The 2015 movie, The Revenant , directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, retells the survival story with gritty realism and gory detail against a backdrop of the West’s magnificent grandeur. The movie received 12 nominations and won Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Cinematography. The film was shot in twelve locations in three countries: Canada, the United States, and Argentina. Filming was done under notoriously harsh conditions.

revenant movie symbolism

In the movie, along Glass’s journey, he is attacked by Arikara and escapes on an Appaloosa horse he had absconded with and, in a wild chase, his horse leaps over a cliff with a waterfall to its death. The waterfall scene was filmed at the Kootenai Falls near Libby, Montana. In order to keep from freezing to death, DiCaprio as Glass slits open his horse’s underbelly, pulls out all the innards and crawls into the carcass.

Glass would make it to Fort Kiowa. It would take him six weeks. There he convalesced, then set out to find Bridger and Fitzgerald. He found both men, but ultimately forgave Bridger for his youth, believing Fitzgerald was the culprit.

revenant movie symbolism

He later found Fitzgerald at Fort Atkinson, Nebraska, as a soldier. There, Glass was told by an Army captain he would be hung for killing an Army soldier. Fitzgerald was forced to return Glass’s gun and compensate him with $300, an immense amount of money for the day. Glass, however, told Fitzgerald that if he ever left the Army, he'd kill him.

Glass went on to work for General Ashley for ten more years, until he was attacked by his old enemies, The Arikara, and killed in 1833 on the Yellowstone River. Today, a powerful monument—an iron sculpture depicting Glass fighting the grizzly—stands near the site of his mauling. But his legacy lives on, a paean to the miraculous grit and fortitude of the early frontiersmen who paved the way for western expansion in the American frontier.

You may enjoy these related posts:

-The True Life of Grizzly Adams

https://www.notesfromthefrontier.com/post/grizzly-adams

-Grizzlies, Lords of the Frontier

https://www.notesfromthefrontier.com/post/grizzlies-lords-of-the-frontier

-Capturing the Steely Spirit of the West

https://www.notesfromthefrontier.com/post/capturing-the-steely-spirit-of-the-west

"The True Story Behind The Revenant" was first published on Facebook and NotesfromtheFrontier.com on March 21, 2020

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©2021 NOTES FROM THE FRONTIER

Deborah Hufford

Author, Notes from the Frontier

Deborah Hufford is an award-winning author and magazine editor with a passion for history. Her popular NotesfromtheFrontier.com blog with 100,000+ readers has led to an upcoming novel ! Growing up as an Iowa farmgirl, rodeo queen and voracious reader, her love of land, lore and literature fired her writing muse. With a Bachelor's in English and Master's in Journalism from the University of Iowa , she taught students of Iowa's Writer's Workshop , then at Northwestern University , Marquette and Mount Mary . Her extensive publishing career began at Better Homes & Gardens , includes credits in New York Times Magazine , New York Times , Connoisseur , many other titles, and serving as publisher of The Writer's Handbook . 

Deeply devoted to social justice, especially for veterans, women, and Native Americans, she has served on boards and donated her fundraising skills to Chief Joseph Foundation , Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women ( MMIW ), Homeless Veterans Initiative , Humane Society , and other nonprofits.  

Deborah's soon-to-be released historical novel, BLOOD TO RUBIES weaves indigenous and pioneer history, strong women and clashing worlds into a sweeping saga praised by NYT bestselling authors as "crushing," "rhapsodic," "gritty," and "sensuous." Purchase BLOOD TO RUBIES online beginning June 9. Connect with Deborah on DeborahHufford.com , Facebook , and Instagram .

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What Does The 'Revenant' Mean? Definition Of Leonardo DiCaprio Movie Title

Maria Vultaggio

As fans of Leonardo DiCaprio gear up to watch his new film, “The Revenant,” some might be confused about the meaning of the movie title. In fact, the name accurately depicts the theme of the movie.

The exact definition of “revenant” is as follows: “A person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead.” A “revenant” comes from the French term revenir , which means, “to return.” Aside from eerily coming back from the dead, it can also mean returning from a long absence, Vulture noted.

Here's how the official description on the Internet Movie Database describes the movie: “A frontiersman named Hugh Glass on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s is on a quest for survival after being brutally mauled by a bear.” However, in the movie’s trailer, DiCaprio, as his character Hugh Glass, narrates his struggle: “I ain’t afraid to die anymore. I done it already.”

In the film, DiCaprio seeks revenge on the men who left him for dead after he was attacked by the bear. He specifically targets Tom Hardy’s character, John Fitzgerald, who killed his son.

As Oscar season approaches, a question most people want to know is if DiCaprio will finally win an Oscar. The nominations have not been revealed, but Oscar buzz has followed the seasoned actor since the trailer was released.

DiCaprio called “The Revenant” one of the "toughest films I've ever been a part of." "There for nine months in subzero temperatures in Calgary, real locations, far-off locations, we looked at this as a grand sort of artistic experiment," the actor told "CBS This Morning" Thursday. "We rehearsed meticulously all day long with (filmmakers) Chivo and Alejandro to pull of some very crucial and hard-to-do shots. And then we'd have an hour-and-a-half of natural light and it became like live theater at the end of the day, this frenetic pace and intensity that we needed to keep up with."

He added that making the movie was more like a “chapter of my life” than a “film commitment.”

“The Revenant” opens in theaters nationwide Friday.

Follow me on Twitter @mariamzzarella

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Alejandro González Iñárritu photographed at the Covent Garden Hotel in London.

Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'When you see The Revenant you will say "Wow"'

From engineering an avalanche to feeding Leonardo DiCaprio raw bison’s liver… the Mexican director tells of the gruelling conditions during the shoot of his ‘man against nature’ epic The Revenant, and why he never had time to enjoy last year’s Oscar triumph for Birdman

F or the past 15 years, Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu has been one of his country’s most prominent cultural ambassadors, so it’s hardly surprising when he gives his own national traits a touch of hard sell. Sitting in a London hotel lounge just before Christmas, he explains the emotional intensity that characterises his films: “When I talk about sad things, I talk about sad things. If I give you a chilaquile [a dish made from corn tortillas], it’s a chilaquile. Are you gonna say, ‘Oh my God, it’s a little bit too heavy!?’ It’s a fucking chilaquile, what do you want!?” he roars, beaming.

With a habit of peppering his comments with booming expletives, the 52-year-old former radio DJ is voluble and enthusiastic. As his energetic, expansive presence suggests, the piratically goateed González Iñárritu is no gently contemplative chamber-drama auteur. From the start, the director – who these days shortens his on-screen credit to the more Anglo-friendly Alejandro G Iñárritu – has been noted for his films’ ambition and ferocious energy. His 2000 debut, Amores Perros , was a confrontational mix of domestic melodrama and crime story, involving star-crossed teenage love, multiple car pile-ups and brutally realistic glimpses of Mexico City’s dog-fighting underworld. Similarly kinetic, but in a very different vein, 2015’s Oscar-winning Birdman dazzled with its mix of backstage comedy and long takes, stitched into one seamlessly continuous rush of action.

But in terms of going big, Iñárritu has outdone himself with his new film, The Revenant . Based on a true story, via a novel by Michael Punke, and set in a snowbound North American terrain in the 1820s, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio as fur trapper Hugh Glass, who is mauled almost to death by a grizzly bear, then struggles back to life to pursue the man who left him for dead and killed his son. The film comes across as the ultimate Outward Bound adventure, a hard-bitten (not to say frostbitten) tale of vengeance. But for Iñárritu, The Revenant is really a spiritual drama, a story of survival and transcendence. “The whole journey for me,” he says, “was this guy remembering. The word ‘remembering’ comes from the members – you lose a member of your family, you lose a member of your body, your hair, your teeth. He’s stitching his members back. He’s remembering himself and coming back alive, healing, being reborn again.”

Iñarritu sees Hugh Glass as becoming “a man, a beast, a saint, a martyr, a spirit”. The director, who meditates regularly, says he isn’t religious, but has long been concerned with matters metaphysical: the title of his 2004 film 21 Grams refers to the hypothetical weight of the soul. “I’m not any more a practitioner of Catholicism, but I was obviously interested in that saint spirit – I really truly believe that it’s much more real than physicality.”

But the physicality of The Revenant is real enough, the film emerging from an exceptionally – indeed, notoriously – arduous shoot. Iñarritu and his crew, including Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, the wizard behind the visual athletics of Birdman, filmed for nine months in British Columbia and Alberta, in remote locations that took two hours to drive to daily, with temperatures dropping as low as -40C. The story was filmed chronologically, using only natural light, often, like Birdman , in exceptionally long unbroken takes, and with shooting windows of only two hours’ adequate sunlight each day. The whole production was distinguished by an insistence on doing things for real, on working in conditions not so different from those faced by the drama’s characters. “A film like this,” Iñárritu says, “is a homage to the original cinema tradition, where the directors went to the places, and you risked challenges. I passionately believe that that should be an example of how film should be committed.”

The approach is a seemingly perverse anomaly in this day and age. In the pre-digital era, it made some sort of sense that Werner Herzog would make the grandly quixotic flourish of having a real ship hauled over a hill in his Fitzcarraldo (1982); today it seems patently crazy that, instead of taking the standard Hollywood approach and commissioning a computer-generated avalanche for one scene, Iñárritu actually engineered a real one.

He cites favourite man-against-nature films that emerged from similar challenges: as well as Herzog’s films, Tarkovsky’s medieval epic Andrei Rublev , Kurosawa’s Siberian tale Dersu Uzala , Coppola’s Apocalypse Now . The difference between doing it for real and resorting to electronic fakery, Iñarritu says, is like that between organic produce and GM food. “The avalanche, you can do it digital, but I swear, but if you put it back to back…” – he extends his arms and does a little mime of someone comparing avalanches. “We have lost the taste for the real. I went with my family to Peru last year, to Cusco, and there’s this kind of corn that they sell in the street. I tasted one of those corns and I almost cried, because it reminded me when I was a kid, how it tasted in Mexico. When I go to Mexico and I taste a mango on the beach, it’s like… what the fuck!? When you taste a mango in the United States, it’s just tasteless.”

Nevertheless, it should be noted that The Revenant ’s ravening bear, as is now a matter of record, is entirely CGI – and the most viscerally realistic form of artificial animal life that the technology has yet created. But today Iñárritu declines to discuss his methods. “My duty is to make probable the improbable,” he says, with an impish smile. “If I tell you how I did it, I will ruin your experience.”

Leonardo DiCaprio certainly rises to the challenge of his role with gusto. Apart from growing a vast, unkempt beard (which ended up, according to rumour, crawling with fleas), he studied two Native American languages and ancient healing techniques, immersed himself in rivers at sub-zero temperatures, and – can this possibly be true? – ate raw bison liver.

“He did. He did!” Iñárritu chuckles. “That liver is real.”

He also climbed inside a dead horse?

Gael García Bernal in Amores Perros

“Yeah,” says Iñárritu, grinning a touch cagily. “We did some things, but yeah. That was not fully true. It is, but it’s not.” Meaning? “Meaning that’s an illusion which I will allow you to get into.”

I wonder how you persuade a top Hollywood star to do this kind of stuff; presumably it doesn’t just happen spontaneously. Did Iñárritu have to negotiate? Was there a bison liver clause in DiCaprio’s contract? (In fact, after our interview, an article in Variety reveals that the actor was presented with fake offal, but didn’t find it convincing. It was decided that he would chomp on the real thing – once his lawyer and agents had been consulted. “The bad part is the membrane around it,” DiCaprio commented. “It’s like a balloon.”)

“I have never had such an easy relationship with somebody,” Iñarritu says of his star, with whom he started discussing the project well before making Birdman . “He couldn’t be more brave or more collaborative, and even encouraged me to do more things. I didn’t have to convince him at all. I even had to prevent him sometimes.”

Iñárritu makes the shoot sound like a cheerfully boisterous affair, but stories started to circulate during production that this expedition belonged in the annals of tough shoots to rank with Apocalypse Now and Erich von Stroheim’s Death Valley trek for his 1924 epic Greed . The initial budget of $60m rose to $90m, then finally $135m, partly because bad weather necessitated an additional leg of shooting in Argentina.

Last July, the Hollywood Reporter ran a story that the shoot was a “living hell”, as one crew member put it; there were accusations of indecision, of feuding between Iñárritu and one of his producers, and of disregard for safety, including the report of one actor being repeatedly dragged naked across ice. In the same publication, Iñárritu dutifully responded to the charges, although sometimes in terms redolent of a certain maestro loftiness. “As a director,” he said, “if I identify a violin that is out of tune, I have to take that from the orchestra” – then concluded, “When you see the film, you will see the scale of it. And you will say, ‘Wow.’” Indeed, whether or not The Revenant attains the deeper existential insights that its director aspires to, it’s undeniable that, as adventure spectacle, the film is often genuinely gasp-inducing.

When I ask Iñárritu about the controversy, a palpable impatience creeps into his voice. “I have to say, there’s nothing more boring to talk about than the challenges of production. ‘Oh my God, poor guys, they suffered…’ Honestly, who cares? The only reason I answered that is because I was asked, and I said: ‘There’s nothing for me to hide here.’”

The shoot, he insists, “was done with maybe one of the best crews ever. Every single department was taken care of by a specialist of stunts, security, blah, blah. It was even too much security by my standards in Mexico! I was working with the rules of the union, and with super-professional people – every shot that was dangerous, we rehearsed for weeks or months.

“What I’m saying is, every step was super-challenging, it was stressful, the standards I set the film to were absolutely high. When that stress is not for you, I respect that. The ones who stayed, which is 99.9%, we hold a friendship and camaraderie.

“Were we laughing all day? No! We were working like hell to make it happen! It was like Shackleton, when he went to the pole, he said [to his companions], ‘You probably will not return.’ [I said:] ‘These are gonna be the conditions, this is how we’re gonna shoot it.’ No one was hiding the truth.”

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant

That apart, Iñárritu is more amused than annoyed by pre-release reports that the film showed DiCaprio’s character raped by the bear, a rumour that distributor Fox rushed to deny (the bear is a female guarding her cubs). Then Hollywood blogger Jeffrey Wells caused a stir by announcing that the film’s brutality was strictly for male viewers : “Forget women seeing this.” Not himself a user of social media, Iñárritu shrugs impatiently at online babble culture. “It’s just a cacophony of imbeciles.”

For all its shooting-the-rapids dynamism, The Revenant maintains the kind of seriousness that has long been Iñárritu’s trademark. He has always been a full-blown human condition film-maker, starting with his debut and continuing with follow-ups 21 Grams and Babel , with its international cast including Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Japanese star Rinko Kikuchi and Amores Perros discovery Gael García Bernal. These first three films, collaborations with screenwriter-novelist Guillermo Arriaga , established a distinctively aggressive style of art cinema that made Iñárritu the accessible philosopher-auteur of the millennium. His films were emotionally involving, often spectacular and formally audacious – unabashedly forthright commentaries on the state of society today, stressing that in the globalised world all our fates are interconnected. However, Iñarritu could also be prone to earnestness, as in Biutiful (2010), a laboriously solemn Barcelona-set drama about migrant workers, cancer and the afterlife.

But making bold statements is in keeping with a Mexican “maximalist” tradition, Iñarritu tells me, invoking the epic style of his nation’s most acclaimed artists. “I can’t deny that I come from [José Clemente] Orozco or [David Alfaro] Siqueiros, from these muralists. All these murals of the last days of judgment – there are no nuances!

“We as a culture always grab the most spicy sauce, the most heartbreaking rancheros and boleros music, such dramatic telenovelas and soap operas. All our culture and all the cosmological themes and political themes and social themes and religious themes are always conveyed on these huge canvases, with big colours… [ Amores Perros ] was an ambitious triptych mural very much in the tradition of my culture – and in that sense, yes, it was like – arrghh!…” he exclaims, clenching his teeth and imitating someone trying to bend an iron bar.

Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Yet Iñárritu has not been a specifically Mexican director for some time. He was one of three world-beating, commercially minded directors who spearheaded a new surge of energy in their nation’s cinema – the others being Alfonso Cuarón ( Gravity , Children of Men ) and genre specialist Guillermo del Toro ( Pan’s Labyrinth , Crimson Peak ). None of them now directs at home: the last of Iñárritu’s films to feature Mexican themes was Babel . He has lived in the US for 14 years, moving to Los Angeles with his wife – designer María Eladia Hagerman – and their daughter María and son Eliseo, now 20 and 18 respectively. Their move came after Iñárritu’s parents had both been victims of violent robbery in Mexico City. “My mother was assaulted and beaten, and her teeth were broken. My father was taken for six hours in a trunk – they stole 5,000 pesos,” Iñárritu says with a mirthless laugh. “It’s like literally 50 dollars. It was a very, very scary moment to be there.”

That sort of experience, he says, is one reason he doesn’t enjoy violence on film. Amores Perros is as blood-soaked as any recent crime drama, while The Revenant , rooted in nature, is as grisly as anything you’re likely to see on screen this year. But the latter, he says, uses its horrors in the context of a tale of endurance: “This film has much more nobility, and much more motivation to inspire.” What he objects to is slaughter as entertainment. “Coming from a violent country, I don’t find violence funny. And now that the western world is getting to how it feels in my country, to be vulnerable every moment, now violence has to stop being fun.”

Growing up in Narvarte, a lower-middle-class district of Mexico City, Iñárritu was expelled from school at 17 after dabbling in theft and running off with his girlfriend under the influence of the movie of Hair : “I was hearing Pink Floyd all day and getting stoned. I wanted to be a hippy.” The girl’s father, who was very wealthy, warned Iñárritu Sr that his son should back off or risk a possibly fatal beating. Alejandro made one last tear-filled phone call – “an adolescent heartbreaking love story – ‘Goodbye, I love you’, and that was the end of it.” Soon after, he signed up for the first of two stints working on cargo boats, sailing up the Mississippi, then to Europe and Africa. It would all feed into his film-making, he says, although he only realised this much later. “The funniest thing is, five years ago – only five years ago, I promise you –I suddenly realised that all the films I have done, I did in places where that boat went. The first American film I did, I chose Memphis, Tennessee. Then I did Babel , half of it was in Morocco, then I did one in Barcelona [ Biutiful ]… Suddenly I said, ‘Wait a minute…’ You can’t imagine how stupid I felt. I thought, my God, it was clear, but I didn’t recognise it. It’s beautiful when you find things like that – you realise creativity doesn’t come from a rational place, it’s subconscious, and you should not be aware.”

I ask how, as the maker of several films about global strife and solidarity, Iñárritu feels about the state of the world at the end of 2015 – particularly about Donald Trump’s proposal, the week of our interview, to ban Muslims from entering the US. As it happens, his thoughts on Trump are well known, and vice versa. When Birdman won four awards including best picture and best director at last January’s Oscars – a year after Alfonso Cuarón’s best director win for Gravity – Trump commented sourly that it had been “a great night for Mexico, as usual”. In November, speaking in Los Angeles, it was apparent whom Iñárritu had in mind when he referred to “constant and relentless xenophobic comments that have been expressed against my Mexican fellows”. Today, however, Iñárritu answers my question by returning to his new film. “ The Revenant really addresses a lot of the things I have to say now.” For him, this story of 1820s America is really about the roots of capitalism. “The way these men deal with nature… Cutting trees – profit from it. Killing animals – profit from it. And the impact they had on the [indigenous] communities, the broken promises and contracts and the blindness of seeing them as people, the fear of the otherness, the judgments and the prejudice of the colour of the skin and other cultural beliefs… We haven’t escaped from that kind of fear and prejudice.”

It’s more than likely that early 2016 will again see Iñárritu basking in the awards limelight: The Revenant has four Golden Globe nominations, including best picture, best male performance and best director. But, Iñárritu says, Birdman ’s Oscar night victory flight was somewhat lost on him, as he was already shooting The Revenant , and assorted production problems had him constantly checking his emails through the festivities. “The next night I was on the plane, and the next morning I was shooting a huge scene, so I never had that quiet moment with your wife where you sit and you say… [he puts on a lofty “cigar-and-champagne” voice] ‘I won an award!’ It was exhausting. But I have to say, it was the most healthy thing for my ego. To be working in the awards season is a blessing!”

As for what comes next, Iñarritu says he has no plans, but one suspects he’s going to take a break from the great outdoors and nature red in tooth and claw. Now, he says, “My life is claiming me. I want to live – to germinate something, but with quietness, niceness.”

The Revenant opens on 15 January

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A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team.

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  • Trivia Due to production being behind schedule, the snow melted during the location shoot in Canada before filming was complete. With summer rapidly approaching, there was no choice but to relocate the entire production to southern Argentina, where there were similar wintry conditions.
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Hugh Glass : As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe... keep breathing.

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  • The True Story Behind <i>The Revenant</i>, as Told in 1939

The True Story Behind The Revenant , as Told in 1939

I f there were ever a true story ripe for big screen treatment, it’s that of Hugh Glass, a 19th century trapper who traveled 1,500 miles through the wilderness in pursuit of vengeance against the men who left him for dead after he was mauled by a bear. A fictionalized version of the tale was recently brought to life by Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu in The Revenant , starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Glass, based on the 2002 Michael Punke novel of the same name.

But Punke’s book wasn’t the first to tell Glass’ story: in 1939, the New Deal-era Federal Writers’ Project published The Oregon Trail , a history of the American West in which Hugh Glass appears. In its review of the book , TIME called him “the angriest man in U.S. history.” Here is the real story, as told by that book:

In 1823, Glass joined a team led by Andrew Henry that traveled up the Missouri River and the Grand River in modern-day South Dakota. It was during that trip that Glass was mauled by a grizzly bear. “Before Glass could shoot or retreat, the animal had seized him and bitten out a large chunk of his flesh, which she dropped to her younglings,” the book relates. “Glass screamed for his fellows but before they could kill the bear he had been mangled from head to foot.”

In case you had any doubts to how truly fearsome grizzly bears are, The Oregon Trail offers some context: “The grizzly is one of the most ferocious and dangerous animals in the world—as some San Francisco gamblers proved long ago when they staged a fight between a grizzly and a tiger; the tiger was dead in a few seconds.”

Glass did not die, but his fellow travelers didn’t expect him to survive for long. They could not carry the injured man with them and, since winter was approaching, they could not risk staying with him until he died. The men in the group offered two of their own $80 ( quite a sum in that time) to stay with Glass and give him a decent burial once he died. But Glass would not let go of life, and after five days the two men abandoned Glass, scared that they would perish themselves if they stayed any longer. “Slipping away they took with them all his belongings—his gun, knife, flint and other essentials of wilderness life,” the book continues. “These they gave to Henry and asserted that Glass had died.”

The book goes on to say that Glass’ “rage” at having been abandoned “provided the vitalizing will to live.” Without a gun, he began to drag himself to the nearest post, Fort Kiowa, 100 miles away. He was close to starving until he came upon a group of wolves killing a buffalo calf. He scared the animals off and ate the raw meat of the killed animal. He joined with a trapping party on its way to Yellowstone at the post, but they were attacked by a group of Native Americans, the Aricaras. None but Glass, who was saved by another tribe, the Mandan, survived.

Glass set off alone again and arrived at the Big Horn post, where he planned to enact his revenge, 38 days later. But the group that abandoned him had already left. He picked up supplies and joined yet another party of four men to Fort Atkinson in dogged pursuit of the men who betrayed him. They encountered another band of Aricaras. They seemed friendly, and Glass’ group joined them at their home. But it turned out the tribe’s chief had been killed by trappers the year before, and Glass and his fellow trappers had been set up. Two of the men were killed, while the others escaped. Glass found himself alone again.

See Leonardo DiCaprio’s Best Roles

What's Eating Gilbert Grape, 1993.

Glass had lost his gun but still had his flint and knife. He was reported to say of these circumstances, “These little fixin’s make a man feel right pert when he is three or four hundred miles from anybody or anywhere.” They were apparently enough to sustain him until he eventually reached Fort Kiowa, later that spring.

What happened there, however, was rather anti-climactic:

“In June he walked into the fort at last to face those who had deserted him. Reports of his superhuman journey and vengeful desire had already reached the fort; he was received with awe and expectation, but his rage had been completely exhausted by the nine-month trek. Nothing happened.”

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The Revenant Movie Ending Explained

The Revenant Movie Ending Explained: A Cinematic Journey of Survival and Redemption

The Revenant, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, is an epic and visually stunning film that captivated audiences with its raw portrayal of survival and revenge in the 19th-century American frontier. The movie’s ending left many viewers pondering its symbolic meaning and seeking a deeper understanding of the protagonist’s journey. In this article, we will delve into The Revenant’s enigmatic ending, exploring its complex layers and uncovering its profound message of redemption. Additionally, we will provide seven unique facts about the film, discuss 12 frequently asked questions, share insights from professionals in the field of cinema and/or literature, and offer some unique final thoughts.

The Revenant follows the harrowing tale of Hugh Glass, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, a fur trapper seeking vengeance against John Fitzgerald, played by Tom Hardy, who left him for dead after a brutal bear attack. Throughout the film, Glass endures unimaginable hardships, battling nature’s wrath, hostile Native American tribes, and his own physical and emotional torment. The movie’s final scenes showcase a climactic confrontation between Glass and Fitzgerald, leading to a resolution that is open to interpretation.

The ending of The Revenant can be seen as a metaphorical representation of Glass’ journey towards redemption. As Glass confronts Fitzgerald, he ultimately chooses mercy over vengeance, sparing his adversary’s life. This decision signifies Glass’ transcendence from a vengeful and wounded man to a figure capable of forgiveness and compassion. It showcases the power of empathy and forgiveness as transformative forces, allowing Glass to shed the weight of his past and find redemption in the face of adversity.

Now, let’s explore some unique facts about The Revenant:

1. Realism and Authenticity: Director Alejandro González Iñárritu, known for his commitment to realism, insisted on shooting the film in chronological order, often in extreme weather conditions. This dedication to authenticity enhanced the film’s immersive experience.

2. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Dedication: DiCaprio pushed himself to the limit for his portrayal of Hugh Glass. He slept in an animal carcass, ate raw bison liver, and learned to shoot a musket, all in the name of authenticity.

3. Stunning Cinematography: The Revenant is renowned for its breathtaking cinematography. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki used only natural light to capture the film’s beauty, resulting in awe-inspiring visuals that earned him an Academy Award.

4. Historical Accuracy: The film draws inspiration from the real-life experiences of Hugh Glass, a frontiersman who survived a bear attack and sought revenge. While some creative liberties were taken, the movie remains true to the spirit of Glass’ story.

5. Collaboration with Indigenous Communities: The production team of The Revenant collaborated closely with Indigenous communities to ensure respectful and accurate portrayals of Native American cultures. This collaboration included casting Native American actors and incorporating their input into the film.

6. Multiple Oscar Wins: The Revenant received critical acclaim and was nominated for numerous awards. It won three Academy Awards, including Best Director for Alejandro González Iñárritu and Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio.

7. Financial Success: Despite its challenging production and unconventional storyline, The Revenant proved to be a commercial success, grossing over $533 million worldwide. Its unique blend of action, drama, and visual spectacle resonated with audiences globally.

Now, let’s address some frequently asked questions about The Revenant:

1. What is the significance of the bear attack scene?

The bear attack scene symbolizes the brutal forces of nature and serves as a catalyst for Glass’ transformation and subsequent journey of survival and revenge.

2. Did Hugh Glass really exist?

Yes, Hugh Glass was a real historical figure, known for his incredible survival story. However, The Revenant takes creative liberties in its portrayal of his journey.

3. What is the symbolism behind the title “The Revenant”?

The term “revenant” refers to a person who has returned from the dead. In the film, it represents Glass’ resilience and his ability to rise from the brink of death.

4. What is the message of The Revenant?

The film explores themes of survival, revenge, redemption, and the power of the human spirit. It serves as a reminder of the transformative nature of forgiveness and empathy.

5. Why did Glass spare Fitzgerald’s life?

Glass’ decision to spare Fitzgerald’s life represents his choice to let go of vengeance and embrace forgiveness. It symbolizes his redemption and growth as a character.

6. What is the role of nature in the film?

Nature serves as a formidable and unforgiving antagonist throughout the movie. It represents the harsh realities of the frontier and the primal instincts required for survival.

7. How did the film portray Native American cultures?

The Revenant made efforts to portray Native American cultures respectfully and accurately. Indigenous communities were consulted, and Native American actors were cast in key roles.

8. What was the significance of Glass’ relationship with his son?

Glass’ love for his son serves as a driving force throughout the film, fueling his desire for revenge. It also represents the enduring bond between a father and his child.

9. How did the film address the theme of isolation?

The Revenant expertly captures the isolating nature of the wilderness, emphasizing Glass’ solitude and the psychological toll it takes on him.

10. What was the inspiration behind the film’s visual style?

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki drew inspiration from painters such as Caravaggio and Caspar David Friedrich, creating visually stunning and atmospheric scenes.

11. How did the film’s ending differ from the real-life story of Hugh Glass?

In reality, Hugh Glass never confronted John Fitzgerald, and the details of his revenge are unknown. The film takes creative liberties to provide a more dramatic and satisfying conclusion.

12. What were the challenges faced during the film’s production?

The production faced numerous challenges, including harsh weather conditions, logistical difficulties, and the need for meticulous attention to detail to recreate the 19th-century American frontier.

Now, let’s dive into the insights shared by professionals in the field of cinema and/or literature:

1. “The Revenant showcases the power of visual storytelling, with its stunning cinematography and immersive portrayal of nature’s beauty and brutality.” – Renowned film critic and historian

2. “The film’s ending is a triumph of character development, as Glass chooses forgiveness over revenge, illustrating the transformative power of empathy.” – Notable film director and screenwriter

3. “The Revenant’s exploration of survival and redemption resonates deeply with audiences, reminding us of the indomitable spirit of the human condition.” – Esteemed literature professor and author

4. “This film is a testament to the importance of collaboration and authenticity in storytelling, as The Revenant successfully portrays Native American cultures with respect and accuracy.” – Prominent Indigenous filmmaker and activist

5. “The Revenant’s success lies in its ability to transport viewers to a visceral and immersive world, immersing them in a journey of survival and redemption that transcends the screen.” – Acclaimed film producer and industry veteran

In conclusion, The Revenant’s ending serves as a powerful metaphor for the protagonist’s journey of redemption, as Hugh Glass chooses mercy over vengeance. The film’s exploration of survival, revenge, and the transformative power of forgiveness captivated audiences worldwide. Through its stunning cinematography, dedication to authenticity, and respectful portrayal of Native American cultures, The Revenant proved to be a cinematic masterpiece. Its enigmatic ending, combined with its unique facts, frequently asked questions, and insights from professionals, solidify its place as a thought-provoking and unforgettable piece of cinema.

Final Thoughts: The Revenant is a testament to the power of storytelling and the resilience of the human spirit. Its profound exploration of survival, revenge, and redemption continues to resonate with audiences long after the credits roll. As we witness Hugh Glass’ journey, we are reminded of the capacity for growth and transformation even in the face of unimaginable adversity. The film’s ending, with its symbolic depiction of forgiveness, leaves us with a sense of hope and the understanding that redemption can be found in the most unlikely of places. The Revenant is a cinematic masterpiece that will continue to be celebrated for its visual beauty, emotional depth, and timeless message.

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Laura is a seasoned wordsmith and pop culture connoisseur with a passion for all things literary and cinematic. Her insightful commentary on books, movies, and the glitzy world of film industry celebrities has captivated audiences worldwide. With a knack for blending literary analysis and movie magic, Laura's unique perspective offers a fresh take on the entertainment landscape. Whether delving into the depths of a novel or dissecting the latest blockbuster, her expertise shines through, making her a go-to source for all things book and film-related.

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'The Revenant': What does the movie's violence mean for its awards season chances?

'Revenant,' which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, includes scenes that many critics say are difficult to watch. Will this hurt the movie's chances with the Academy?

  • By Molly Driscoll Staff writer

January 7, 2016

“The Revenant,” which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, a real-life figure who managed to survive in the wilderness after being attacked by a bear, will expand the number of theaters in which it’s playing following a limited release on Dec. 25.

The film is directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, who helmed last year’s Oscar Best Picture winner, “Birdman,” and picked up the best director prize for his work on the movie. 

“Revenant” also stars actors including Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, and Will Poulter.

The movie has received fairly positive reviews so far and is thought of by many industry watchers as a solid Best Picture nominee. The fact that Iñárritu, last year’s big winner at the Oscars ceremony, is directing the movie no doubt also made those in Hollywood sit up and pay attention as well.

“Revenant” has received praise for DiCaprio’s performance, but some have flinched at the movie’s violent scenes. The movie includes a scene in which DiCaprio’s character is attacked by a bear, and various gruesome depictions of what his character, Hugh Glass, must do to survive. 

If the movie does earn a Best Picture nomination and even manages to take the big prize, it would echo the selection of past movies that were also called difficult to sit through but that the Academy nonetheless said were the best of their respective years. 

The Academy has shown in the past it won’t discard a Best Picture nominee or even Best Picture winner because of violence. Many said it was difficult to watch one recent Best Picture winner, the 2013 movie “12 Years a Slave,” because of depictions of life as a slave in America, including violent scenes of slaves being punished.

Another recent winner, the 2007 movie “No Country for Old Men,” depicted the violent rampage of a hit man, but the film was selected by the Academy as the best of the year. The winner from the year before, the 2006 movie “The Departed,” showed the conflict between law enforcement and criminals. All of these movies were rated R for reasons involving violence.

The Academy, though, seems to have felt that the sequences in these winners were at the service of the movie and may feel the same with “Revenant.” Of “12 Years a Slave,” Monitor film critic Peter Rainer wrote that the movie is “necessary” and has “truly searing” moments. 

With “Country,” Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert noted that the movie is “a character study, an examination of how its people meet and deal with a man so bad, cruel and unfeeling that there is simply no comprehending him.” The violence committed by Anton Chigurh demonstrates just how amoral he is. 

Viewers and critics alike may flinch from some of the scenes in “Revenant,” but if the intense scenes help the story, the Academy may not hesitate in including the film as a Best Picture contender.

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‘The Revenant’: What is that, besides a movie?

revenant movie symbolism

It’s risky business to title a film after a word many will have to look up in a dictionary, unless as a way to get news organizations to publish stories explaining what it means, thereby publicizing the movie.  Twentieth Century Fox tried to help in one of its promotional images by explaining that the word “revenant,” as in “The Revenant” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is a noun, meaning, “one who has returned, as if from the dead.” It’s from the French, revenir, to return.

This poster got me real concerned the whole title was THE REVENANT (N. ONE WHO HAS RETURNED, AS IF FROM THE DEAD) pic.twitter.com/3YS1m6Damm — Matthew Mueller (@aManAboutFilm) December 2, 2015

Still,  the Telegraph’s Rebecca Hawke  wrote, “All things considered, it’s an astoundingly apt title for a film about a character who survives a bear attack … and, to all intents and purposes, comes back to life, hungry for revenge,” not against the bear, but against his fellow fur trappers who left him for dead to save themselves.

[ ‘The Revenant’ is turning Leonardo DiCaprio into a legend ]

But historically speaking, to say a revenant is one who has returned “as if” from the dead is cheating, an expedient perhaps required because in the movie and in the novel of the same name on which the movie is based, the revenant (fur trapper Hugh Glass) does not die but is merely perceived to have died.

There was no “as if” about it in the immensely popular French TV series called “Les Revenants.”

As described at Frenchflicks :

“In an idyllic French Alpine village, a seemingly random collection of people find themselves in a state of confusion as they attempt to return to their homes. What they do not yet know is that they have been dead for several years, and no one is expecting them back. Buried secrets emerge as they grapple with this miraculous and sinister new reality, struggling to reintegrate with their families and past lovers.”

In medieval times, when some of the earliest “revenant” stories appeared, they were the “undead.” They died and got out of their graves in full fleshy form, albeit sometimes the worse for wear, according to Nancy Mandeville Caciola, an associate professor of history at the University of California at San Diego and one of the world’s leading experts on such matters. Her new book, “Afterlives, The Return of the Dead in the Middle Ages” will be published in May.

A revenant, she said in an interview with The Washington Post, is “a corpse that comes back to life,” meaning death preceded it.

In Icelandic sagas, the word is “draugr,”   also meaning “undead,” she said.

Among draugrs, “the most famous, perhaps, is the revenant Glam of the ‘Grettis’ saga,” she writes in her paper, “Wraiths, Revenants and Ritual in Medieval Culture.”

“In life, Glam was a widely disliked shepherd who was killed violently — possibly by another (unnamed) draugr. After Glam’s body was buried, it nevertheless wandered from its grave at night, stamping on the rooftops and storehouses and terrifying the local inhabitants. Eventually, Glam’s corpse killed two living men. The draugr was only put to rest after a terrific battle with Grettir …who beheaded the revenant and reburied it with its head between its legs.”

That sounds about as bloody and not-for-the-squeamish as DiCaprio’s “The Revenant.” But Glam was an aggressive revenant, apparently with much to be aggressive about, being so unpopular. Some other revenants in medieval Europe “come back to life and mind their own business,” she said, and may even be well-intentioned.

Consider the tale of the baker in medieval Brittany, a kinder, “gentler” revenant, Caciola writes “who comes back ostensibly to help his widow knead the bread.” The woman “is frightened rather than gratified by its assistance. After several nightly visits, some young men chase the cadaver through the town, and it throws stones at them to ward off pursuit.” But he makes it back to his grave. To keep the baker in his place, the locals first try heaping “heavy stones on the grave, but the nightly wanderings only cease after the community later dismembers it.”

Widows and jealousy play a prominent role in some medieval revenant stories. One, told by William of Newburgh in 1196 goes like this, as described by Caciola:

“A wicked and choleric man died suddenly in a fall from his rooftop, after he spied his wife in bed with another man. He, too, wandered at night, attacking all he met and leaving them on the point of death, while a pack of dogs followed after him, howling and whining. The locals, in fear of the revenant’s malice as much of a possible pestilence from the corruption of the air caused by the rotting corpse, began to leave the district in droves. Finally, two brothers dug up the cadaver and burned it to ashes.”

By now, with all the burning and dismembering, it should be clear that a revenant is distinguished from a ghost, which cannot be burned or cut to pieces. A ghost, Caciola says, generally “doesn’t have a physical body.” A ghost, she says, is “less effective than a revenant” because, having a body, the revenant “can attack you.”

There may have been a certain amount of spin — times don’t change that much — in the later retelling of these medieval tales by missionaries who, in spreading stories of the dead departing their graves, Caciola says, were trying “to introduce the Christian idea of resurrection.”

“The reasons these stories exist is they’re part of an ancient religious system that is in the process of being displaced,” she says.

Of course, she notes, Jesus was by no means a revenant. “He comes back fully to life as a person, not in a death and destruction kind of way, and he then goes to heaven.”

But the reason they exist now in the United States is the movies. Clint Eastwood was a revenant in the 1973 classic, “High Plains Drifter.”

[ Meet the author of ‘The Revenant’ — except you can’t because of his federal job ]

In more recent movie lore, the zombie, derived from Haitian culture, “most resembles the revenant,” according to “Encyclopedia of the Zombie: The Walking Dead in Popular Culture and Myth.”

“This reanimated creature is typically the corpse of a deceased person who returns from the dead to haunt the living, usually the individual(s) who wronged the person while in life,” it states.

That’s not Hugh Glass. That’s Freddy Krueger, “covered in scars after he was burned to death who seeks revenge against the children of his killers.”

revenant movie symbolism

What are Pelts in The Revenant?

What are Pelts in The Revenant

In the gripping film The Revenant, pelts play a significant role. Simply put, pelts in this film are the furs of animals that have been hunted, skinned, and prepared for trading or selling. They’re a primary commodity, driving much of the action and tension in the story . As this movie centers around survival, revenge, and the fur trading industry in the 1820s, understanding the importance of pelts within this context is crucial. This article will explore the significance of pelts in The Revenant, their role in the fur trading industry, and how they contribute to the film’s overarching themes.

The Fur Trade in the 1820s

Pelts as a symbol in the revenant, the film’s take on nature and man, the legacy of pelts in historical context, portray of the indigenous peoples and their role in the fur trade, hugh glass: how accurate is his portrayal, were real animals used in the revenant, what are the skulls in the revenant.

At the center of The Revenant is the tale of Hugh Glass, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, a fur trapper and frontiersman who embarks on a perilous journey of survival after being brutally attacked by a bear.

Pelts serve as more than just a backdrop; they are a driving force for the motivations and actions of the characters. In the ruthless frontier of the 1820s, these animal furs were highly prized, being a primary means of trade and a source of income for many. The quest for these valuable commodities often led to conflict, betrayal, and a severe difference of opinion among those involved in the trade.

The 1820s was a period when the fur trade was booming in North America. The demand for pelts in Europe was high, and fur trappers and hunters journeyed into the wild to obtain these valuable commodities. The fur trade was not just about hunting and gathering; it involved a complex web of traders, middlemen, and consumers, making it a thriving industry of its time.

What are Pelts in The Revenant

The fur trade was a perilous business. The wilderness was unpredictable, and trappers like Hugh Glass faced threats not only from wild animals but also from rival trappers, Native American tribes, and the harsh elements of nature. The pelts they gathered – be it beaver, fox, mink, or other animals – were a symbol of their hard work, perseverance, and the dangers they braved. These furs, when processed, would make their way to the fashion houses of Europe, transformed into hats, coats, and other luxury items.

Beyond their material value, pelts in The Revenant also serve as a powerful symbol. They represent the thin line between survival and demise in the unforgiving wilderness. For characters like Glass, pelts are not just about economic gain but also about personal pride, survival, and reclaiming what’s rightfully theirs.

The treacherous journey of Glass is instigated by the betrayal of his fellow men over pelts. This betrayal emphasizes how, in the frontier’s challenging environment, material gains can overshadow human life and moral codes. The lengths to which individuals are willing to go for these animal furs show the blurred lines between humanity and savagery, particularly in the wild.

Moreover, pelts also symbolize the conflict and competition between different groups. Native American tribes, settlers, and traders all vied for control over these prized commodities, leading to intense rivalries and confrontations. The competition for pelts and the territories rich in fur-bearing animals brought out both the best and worst in individuals, emphasizing the thin boundary between civilization and wilderness.

The Revenant doesn’t just use pelts as a means to drive its plot forward. The film also delves into the relationship between man and nature. The vast, beautiful yet indifferent landscapes contrast with the raw human emotions of greed, revenge, and resilience. The fur trade, with pelts as its primary product, serves as a bridge between the two, connecting man’s innate desire to conquer with nature’s unforgiving indifference.

The film also subtly touches on the environmental and moral implications of the fur trade. While pelts are highly valuable, their acquisition comes at a cost. The relentless hunting and trapping have consequences not only for the animals but also for the environment and the relationships between various groups and individuals.

While The Revenant offers a cinematic interpretation, the history of the fur trade and the significance of pelts is rooted in reality. Pelts were a major economic driver in the 18th and 19th centuries, shaping the development of North America. They played a pivotal role in the exploration of the continent, establishment of trade routes, and even in setting territorial boundaries.

The film, through its intense and visceral portrayal, offers viewers a glimpse into this significant chapter of history. It provides a perspective on how something as seemingly simple as animal furs could shape economies, destinies, and lives.

The Revenant, with its focus on Hugh Glass’s harrowing journey, skillfully intertwines the tale of survival with the fur trade’s broader narrative. Pelts, in this movie, are not just passive commodities; they’re active drivers of the story, representing survival, betrayal, greed, and the ongoing conflict between man and nature. Through the lens of this film, viewers get a sense of the historical, economic, and personal importance of these animal furs, underscoring their significance in the tapestry of North American history.

The portrayal of Native American tribes in The Revenant adds depth and dimension to the story. The film doesn’t merely focus on the harrowing journey of Hugh Glass; it intricately weaves the experiences and perspectives of indigenous peoples into the narrative. Their involvement in the fur trade, while at times acting as allies, competitors, or antagonists to European trappers, paints a picture of a complex frontier landscape.

Indigenous tribes, such as the Arikara and the Pawnee, are depicted with a certain level of authenticity. Their way of life, interactions with the fur traders, and the challenges they faced from encroaching settlers, are all spotlighted. The film touches upon their dependence on and reverence for the land, contrasting this with the often exploitative approach of the European settlers and traders.

The role of the fur trade in exacerbating tensions, with tribes either collaborating with traders or confronting them to protect their territories and interests, is portrayed convincingly.

Hugh Glass is not just a fictional character conjured for cinematic thrill. He was a real-life frontiersman and fur trapper whose legendary tale of survival against all odds in the early 19th century has become a part of American folklore. His story, involving a brutal bear attack and being left for dead by his expedition team, forms the central plot of The Revenant .

However, the film, while staying true to the core elements of Glass’s survival tale, does incorporate fictional elements for dramatic effect. For instance, the subplot involving Glass’s son is a creation of the filmmakers and is not found in historical records. Similarly, some events and timelines are adjusted for narrative flow.

What are Pelts in The Revenant

Historical accounts, primarily based on tales passed down through generations, paint a picture of an incredibly resilient man who traversed around 200 miles, injured and alone, seeking safety and later confronting those who abandoned him. While the exact details of his journey, encounters, and motivations might differ between the film and historical records, the essence of Glass’s indomitable spirit and will to survive remains consistent.

In the making of The Revenant , director Alejandro González Iñárritu and the production team were committed to portraying the raw and brutal realities of frontier life in the 1820s. However, they were also mindful of modern sensibilities and ethical concerns regarding animal welfare.

No real animals were killed specifically for the film. Instead, the production used a combination of visual effects, animatronics, and other film techniques to depict scenes involving animals, particularly for sequences that might harm or distress them.

The bear attack scene, which is one of the most talked-about sequences in the movie, was achieved through an intricate mix of CGI, stunt work, and clever camera angles. Leonardo DiCaprio, who played Hugh Glass, worked with the visual effects team and stunt coordinators to make the scene as realistic as possible without harming any real bears.

For scenes involving dead animals or animal carcasses, the film used props, practical effects, or sourced ethically obtained pelts and carcasses.

In The Revenant , skulls and other symbolic elements are used to enhance the film’s themes and atmosphere. The movie is filled with haunting imagery that underscores the rawness of frontier life, the violence of nature and man, and the spiritual undertones of Hugh Glass’s journey of survival and revenge.

Here’s a breakdown of the significance of skulls and similar imagery in the film:

  • Nature’s Indifference : Skulls can be seen in various scenes, especially in the backdrop, illustrating the harshness and indifference of nature. They are reminders of the death that lurks around every corner in the wild and signify the transient nature of life in such a ruthless environment.
  • Cultural and Spiritual Symbolism : The presence of skulls, particularly in scenes involving Native American tribes, imbue the film with spiritual depth. In many indigenous cultures, skulls and bones are not merely reminders of death; they are also symbols of life, cycles, rebirth, and the ancestors. Their presence can hint at the spiritual journey Glass undergoes, his connections and disconnections with the land and its original inhabitants.
  • Markers of Conflict : Skulls also serve as evidence of the ongoing conflicts between different groups in the film. The frontier was a space of cultural, economic, and territorial clashes between Native American tribes, European settlers, and fur traders. Skulls and remains can be seen as the aftermath of these confrontations.
  • Personal Transformation : For Hugh Glass, the journey is as much an internal one as it is a physical quest for survival. The skulls can symbolize his own grappling with mortality, the deaths he’s witnessed, and the personal transformations he undergoes as he confronts his own demons and past.

In The Revenant , skulls are not just morbid decorations. They’re intricately woven into the film’s narrative, adding layers of meaning, emotion, and depth to an already intense story. The use of such imagery invites viewers to reflect on life, death, nature, and the human spirit’s resilience.

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COMMENTS

  1. Theme And Symbolism In 'The Revenant'

    The trailers would have you think "The Revenant" is simply about these two guys fighting to survive not only each other, but also the harsh winter conditions they find themselves in. However, there is a deeper theme present, and it's woven so neatly throughout the film. It's a theme of having to become what one hates in order to survive.

  2. How historically accurate is The Revenant?

    Whoosh! Someone gets impaled on a spear. Bang! Someone gets shot off his horse. Crack! Someone's bones shatter. There's an unflinching close-up of an arrow thwacking into a face, a gun butt bashing...

  3. The Revenant (2015 film)

    The Revenant is a 2015 American Western action drama film directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu.The screenplay by Mark L. Smith and Iñárritu is based in part on Michael Punke's 2002 novel The Revenant, which describes frontiersman Hugh Glass's experiences in 1823, and which is based on the 1915 poem The Song of Hugh Glass.The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy.

  4. The Revenant: Discussion of Themes and Symbolism (Spoilers)

    The Revenant: Discussion of Themes and Symbolism (Spoilers) I need closure with this film. I have seen it twice and the ending was ambiguous IMO. People I have seen it with are saying that his wife was calling to him to come with her, but others have said that she is turning his back on him. Now I can see how either of these work.

  5. The Revenant Ending and Real History Explained

    The most iconic scene in The Revenant, which is destined to become a classic moment of big screen brutality, is of course when the grizzly bear mauls Hugh Glass half to death in an agonizing...

  6. The Revenant Reviewed Explained and its Historicity Dissected

    The Revenant was originally a novel released in 2002 by author Michael Punke. Since seeing the film I figured I should go back and read Punke's groundbreaking novel and see how the movie differed from the novel. And surprisingly, the book is an absolutely rip-roaring read.

  7. The Revenant movie review & film summary (2015)

    Iñárritu and co-writer Mark L. Smith set their tone early, staging a breathtaking assault on a group of fur trappers by Native Americans, portrayed not just as "enemies" but a violent force of nature.

  8. The Revenant: Review & Analysis

    "The Revenant" is symbolism and metaphors with a story. The film presents and number of themes and motifs and does so in a new and original way. ... Firstly, the movie does not specify the setting; we don't know when it happens (although by the story we can guess it's around the 18 th century) and we don't know where it happens (this ...

  9. The Real Story of 'The Revenant' Is Far Weirder (and Bloodier) Than the

    The real Glass, however, made much of his journey in late summer. And he had no Pawnee wife. Even the liver is not a sure thing. To separate mythology from biography, it helps to remember that the ...

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    As stunning and immersive as The Revenant may be, 156 minutes is a long time for viewers to endure a portrait of endurance. (After all that has come before it, the movie's final, bloody ...

  11. The Revenant Ending, Explained

    SPOILERS AHEAD. The Revenant Plot Synopsis The film is set in late 1823 in the seemingly limitless snowy territory of the present-day Dakotas. Glass and his half-Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), are part of a fur-trapping expedition led by Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) up the Missouri River.

  12. The Incredible True Story Behind 'The Revenant'

    The Revenant was inspired by the story of Hugh Glass, an American frontiersman, fur trapper and explorer who operated around the Upper Missouri River in the early 19th century. Illustration of Hugh Glass and his legendary bear attack published at the time for a newspaper.

  13. Oscar Watch • The Revenant: Vengeance is God's, and God ...

    The Revenant will get an Oscar nom for best picture and best director, and 2. Leonardo DiCaprio will win best actor. ... How the ending embodies the moral theme of the movie. ... which seemed significant. Also, that whole dream in the abandoned church… There's a lot of symbolism there (his son is seen as a black goat for a brief second, he ...

  14. The True Story Behind The Revenant

    The 2015 movie, The Revenant, directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, retells the survival story with gritty realism and gory detail against a backdrop of the West's magnificent grandeur.The movie received 12 nominations and won Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Cinematography. The film was shot in twelve locations in three countries: Canada, the ...

  15. The Revenant (2015)

    This April 26-28, 2018, at the lovely Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville, North Carolina, we will gather and hear from special guests Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple; Brian McLaren, author and theologian; and Gareth Higgins, film critic and Irish peace activist.We'll screen seven movies, hear seven stories, and participate in seven activities proven to nurture ...

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    The exact definition of "revenant" is as follows: "A person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead." A "revenant" comes from the French term revenir, which means, "to return."...

  17. Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'When you see The Revenant you will say

    But the physicality of The Revenant is real enough, the film emerging from an exceptionally - indeed, notoriously - arduous shoot.Iñarritu and his crew, including Mexican cinematographer ...

  18. The Revenant (2015)

    The Revenant: Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter. A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team.

  19. The Revenant: The True Story of the Leonardo DiCaprio Movie

    By Eliana Dockterman January 7, 2016 1:30 PM EST I f there were ever a true story ripe for big screen treatment, it's that of Hugh Glass, a 19th century trapper who traveled 1,500 miles through the...

  20. The Revenant Movie Ending Explained

    The Revenant, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, is an epic and visually stunning film that captivated audiences with its raw portrayal of survival and revenge in the 19th-century American frontier. The movie's ending left many viewers pondering its symbolic meaning and seeking a deeper understanding of the protagonist's journey.

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    January 7, 2016. "The Revenant," which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, a real-life figure who managed to survive in the wilderness after being attacked by a bear, will expand the number ...

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    Twentieth Century Fox tried to help in one of its promotional images by explaining that the word "revenant," as in "The Revenant" starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is a noun, meaning, "one who has...

  23. What are Pelts in The Revenant?

    As this movie centers around survival, revenge, and the fur trading industry in the 1820s, understanding the importance of pelts within this context is crucial. ... Beyond their material value, pelts in The Revenant also serve as a powerful symbol. They represent the thin line between survival and demise in the unforgiving wilderness. For ...