There are many outstanding things about The Revenant but if I had to pick just one thing, it would be the photography. It is breathtaking. It wanted to make me go to the bathroom and weep, as it seemed like the ultimate master class in the use of wide-angle lens.
The story of fur trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is set in the year 1823 in the snowy mountains and wilderness of Montana and South Dakota. Principal photography however, was done not just in Montana, but also in places like the Canadian Rockies and Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. About a dozen location managers were hired just to get the right environment for director Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman, Babel) and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity, Birdman). When you see each scene, you can truly imagine the pains the team went through to get these beautiful, perfect shots—all shot in natural light.
There’s the stunning, majestic, powerful, expansive landscape that’s captured by this genius eye and it lends thoroughly to each scene in the film. And my goodness—to see the snowflakes on Leonardo DiCaprio’s lashes at once and at the same time, this white, breathtaking background that will not let you forget it is there.
You can also imagine the very grueling demands of the film not just on the crew but also on the lead actor. Leonardo DiCaprio must have some incredible amount of determination and fortitude to bring the dramatized version of the Glass story to life.
But being content with the easy way out would not have birthed this film. In the words of Director Iñárritu: “We are shooting in such remote far-away locations that, by the time we arrive and have to return, we have already spent 40-percent 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… If we ended up in green screen with coffee and everybody having a good time, everybody will be happy, but most likely the film would be a piece of shit.”
You know this is true when you behold the final product that is the film. It is not just a story of revenge but of sheer determination in the face of test after test.
Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto collaborated The National’s Bryce Dessner to come up with the soundtrack which worked hand in hand with the sound design to evoke the feeling of being out in nature—being awe, excitement and fear.
While they did not earn an Oscar nomination for musical score, The Revenant did reap 12 Academy Award nominations in these categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor (Tom Hardy), Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Editing, Best Make Up and Hair, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects.
And here’s a bit of trivia: The Revenant is one of four films released in 2015 starring Domnhall Gleeson. The others are: Ex Machina, Brooklyn and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The Revenant opened on February 3 and is available in regular and IMAX formats.