Origin of revenant: 1820-30; French: ghost, noun use of present participle of revenir to return, equivalent to re- + ven (ir) to come (Latin venīre); a person who returns as a spirit after death; a person who returns.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “The Revenant” is featured on a random internet list as one of “15 great movies that are incredibly boring.”
I have three words to say to that. Three times: the bear attack. The bear attack. The bear attack.
Although the Arikara onslaught on the fur traders early in the film was an uber-realistic, white-knuckle event which is captured in an uninterrupted, continuous shot without cuts, in my opinion the bear attack on DiCaprio’s character Glass was the eye-boggling winner as far as effects go. I think I’ve seen that scene at least four or five times, and each time is as horrifying as the last.
But we can’t say a movie’s not boring just because of one scene, right?
Right. There’s action in this movie. It’s just spaced far apart, like the desolate stretches of frozen land that DiCaprio’s character traverses as he makes his way toward sweet revenge against the one who murdered his son and left him to die.
Between Glass’s ghastly physical suffering and thirst for vengeance, the relentless attacks of the Arikara tribe who are also searching for the chief’s missing daughter, the French hunters who happen to be holding prisoner and raping said daughter, and myriad other randomly violent and demoralizing situations occurring in the story, one might wonder why the hell is it so boring then?
On a side note, according to a Wikipedia article, a Canadian actor was “strongly critical of the movie for portraying French-Canadian voyageurs as murderous rapists.” And according to Allan Greer, the Canada Research Chair in Colonial North America, “generally the American traders had a worse reputation than the Canadians.”
I would venture the difference to be in pacing and presentation; the dialogue tends to be formal and thoughtful, lacking quips and “cuteness,” the spectacular cinematography lures you into its imagined interior: you can almost feel the snow, the fire’s warmth. There is a savage beauty, and you fall helplessly in love.
And time spools out easily, almost dreamily between events, giving the viewer the space to recover, imitating, in my opinion, how time was probably experienced anyway back before our technological age: heavier, lengthier somehow, more packed with feeling, patience, even consideration of consequence. Nothing like today. This movie nurtures time. That could be boring to some.
In reality, the real Hugh Glass had not been holding a fiery grudge which drove him forward to seek revenge. In reality, Mr. Glass evidently only wanted his rifle back.
And the bear attack. Don’t forget the bear attack.
Greed, misunderstanding, lack of empathy, betrayal: the makings of a good Hollywood movie (for some).
The general state of humanity.
I wonder if a country could be a revenant like a person. If a country could, maybe the U.S. will be a revenant. Maybe slit open, cleaved in two, the odds stacked against it, it’ll dig upward, burst outward into something new.
Does a country have a voice? Maybe it does. Maybe howling, it’ll survive the journey and return, racked and scarred, like Glass, but alive, even though, in real life, Glass didn’t want revenge; he only wanted his rifle back.
And you’ll be happy to know, also in real life, that the fort took up a collection to pay him for all his trouble. A good end to a frightening, punishing quest. Could happen to anyone. Could happen to us.