The meaning of the film The Revenant
How distant the blood, pain and cold on the screen seem when you sit in a warm cinema hall and consume salty popcorn to the hum of a projector … But not on The Revenant. With this film, it will not work out like that – either you felt the suffering of the characters with every cell of your body, or you did not watch The Revenant. There is no third. For the hyperrealism of this film, we should thank the film’s director Alejandro Iñarritu, who is convinced that masterpieces of this level are not filmed in a cozy film studio. And so the film crew goes to work at -25, the actors wander knee-deep in the cold water, DiCaprio is eating raw bison liver. All this is for the sake of us believing them, believing the film. And what is the essence of the movie The Revenant and why was all this suffering necessary? Let’s figure it out.
The “Real” Hugh Glass: The Story That Inspired Iñarritu
No matter how terrible the story that formed the basis of the plot of The Revenant may seem, alas, it happened in reality. If anything, Hugh Glass actually existed. He was a fur hunter in North America in the early 19th century. The people for whom Glass worked described him as a wayward and strong-willed person who is difficult to control. Hugh Glass became legendary after being attacked by a bear. In 1823, Glass joined a fur expedition to North Dakota. While exploring the Missouri coast, he came across a bear with two cubs. The animal attacked the hunter, tore off his scalp, pierced his throat with claws and broke his leg. At the screams of Glass, his comrades came running, and after several shots, the enraged beast was killed.
Left – the historic Hugh Glass, right – Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant
Hugh Glass was on the verge of death. The leaders of the expedition ordered two of its members to stay with Glass so that they could bury their comrade in a Christian way. However, a couple of days later, realizing that every hour the expedition was moving further and further from them, the elder – John Fitzgerald – convinced the younger, Jim Bridger, to leave the dying Glass and hurry after his comrades. They lowered his body into the grave and went home. When the badly wounded Hugh Glass came to his senses, he was completely alone in a deep forest. Straining all his strength, he crawled to the nearest stream, where he managed to get water, and the next six weeks he spent in the difficult path to the nearest camp of hunters.
Having turned into a legend, this story was overgrown with many fantastic details, which, at their discretion, were added by everyone who ever had to retell it. Many people liked it, perhaps because it reflected that unshakable spirit of the brave discoverers who roamed the vastness of America in those years. However, the ending was unexpected: finding Fitzgerald and Bridger, Hugh Glass … forgave both. In other words, he acted like a Christian with those who denied him the right to be buried according to Christian customs. This upset the writers of The Revenant a lot, who had to come up with additional motivation for their hero – he took revenge on his offenders not for himself, but for the one who was dearer to him than his own life – for his son.
The essence of the conflict in the movie The Revenant and the characters
Captain Henry’s team, which includes Hugh Glass, his half-blood son Hawk, John Fitzgerald and young Bridger, are invaders who trade in Indian territories. These people, by definition, are not good guys. But why, throughout the film, do we empathize with Glass and hate Fitzgerald? Is it only the endurance, physical strength and agility of Glass that we admire, or is there something else? Now I have to resort to some simplification, but it will help us to place accents in the events of the film and understand why some characters are sympathetic and others disgusted.
The attitude of heroes to nature
If you line up all the heroes in a row on some imaginary scale from “plus” to “minus”, where the position is determined by several criteria, then the most important, determining factor, I would call the hero’s closeness to nature. And the closest to it are, of course, the Indians. From time immemorial, they have lived on these lands, wisely using natural resources, investing their wisdom in hunting, fishing, breeding horses. But representatives of Western civilization have brought disorder to this measured life, bringing with them firearms, violence, robberies. Now the Indians can no longer live as before, they are always under the threat of destruction, it has become difficult for them to hunt – and we see how representatives of the Erikari tribe rob Captain Henry’s detachment in order to seize meat and furs, which they will need to exchange for horses from detachment of the French.
Hugh Glass seems to blend in with nature in this shot. He knows how to disguise and sneak no worse than the Indians.
It would seem that the Indian tribes are doomed, because bows cannot resist guns. But the Indians have something that the Europeans do not have – they know and understand nature, they can merge with it and sneak up to the camp silently, they attack like wild animals. And next on our scale of closeness to nature is Hugh Glass. He lived for several years with the Pawnee Indian tribe, learned their language, he absorbed their wisdom along with the parables that his wife, the mother of young Hawk, told him. He alone understands the Indians – remember how deftly he neutralizes one of the attacking ri, hiding in the branches of a tall tree – where no other from Captain Henry’s detachment would have noticed him. He manages to survive after a collision with the armed ri chasing him on horseback. The very existence of his son is eloquent testimony to the
How does Glass feel about the harsh nature in which he has to survive? He is a skillful and dexterous hunter, in terms of disguise, in more often he is not inferior to the Indians who grew up in these forests, he unmistakably paves the way among the snow … And he also treats animals and local people with gratitude, although this feeling is completely devoid of any sentimentality. When Glass’s horse dies, in a matter of minutes he assesses his position and realizes that the only way not to freeze to death tonight is to climb into the still warm carcass of the animal. But, leaving in the morning, the hunter touches the animal’s skin and freezes for a moment – this is how he says goodbye to the creature whose death allowed him to survive, this is how he pays tribute to him. Compare this to Fitzgerald’s account of how his father met God in the form of a squirrel, “fried it and ate it.”
DiCaprio and Iñarritu on the set of The Revenant
Selflessness and greed
What other characteristics help us distinguish the true heroes of this story from the miserable and worthless people? Another trait that “worthy” characters have is selflessness. Captain Henry assigns a $ 100 bounty to anyone who stays with Glass in his final hours. Hawk and Jim Bridger unanimously refuse the reward, since it is a matter of honor for them to save the life of one of the most important members of the squad. John Fitzgerald behaves in a completely different way, first picking up a triple award, and then completely destroying the safe in which the proceeds from the entire expedition are kept. The French are also greedy – they make dishonorable deals with the Indians, despite the reproaches of the leader of the tribe. Captain Henry has a completely different, reasonable attitude to material values - he understands when it is necessary to sacrifice little (leave furs in the forest),
Clan and family as the highest value for Glass and the Indian community
Finally, it is also important what goals the heroes set for themselves, where they go. For the heroes of the film The Revenant, the family, the family, stands in the center of the universe. Hugh Glass had no one closer than his wife and son. When his wife was killed, Glass shot the abuser, disregarding the fact that he was an officer. Glass was on the verge of death when he lost the last thing he had left – his son Hawk. He could not leave this world without taking revenge on Fitzgerald, and he gathered all the vital forces not in order to bring himself back to life, but in order to punish the guilty one. Remember what you wrote on the stone on the wall of the Glass Cave – “Fitzgerald killed my son.” More important than this terrible fact, nothing remained in his life. The second character, for whom the fate of his family is the most important in the world, is an Indian chief, whose tribe tirelessly wanders through the forests in search of the chief’s daughter, Powaki. For him, every European is an enemy, because any of them could take his daughter away, harm her. And this justifies all the cruelty with which the Ri tribe pursues Captain Henry’s squad.
In his dreams and memories, Glass constantly returns to his wife.
The captain himself thinks about his relatives – having gone in search of Fitzgerald, he tells Glass that he forgets his wife’s face. But Captain Henry thinks not only of his wife, he tries to save the lives of people in his squad, helps them cope with injuries – after all, he is a doctor. The aspirations of the young Bridger, devoted to Hugh Glass, are by no means selfish. But John Fitzgerald does not care about anyone but himself – the thirst for profit in him is stronger than common sense, he is ready to put himself and others at risk, just to earn more, is ready for betrayal.
Multilingualism in the film The Revenant and the problem of misunderstanding
It is not the first time that Iñarritu has addressed the topic of misunderstanding between people – on this topic he made the film “Babylon”, the characters of which speak five different languages. So in The Revenant this topic comes up again, although not so clearly. The members of the expedition of Captain Henry speak English, the French speak their own language – but they do not know and do not recognize each other’s languages. “Can you speak our language?” – they sarcastically ask a Frenchman who has nailed to the camp of hunters, who speaks English with a monstrous accent. Somehow, members of the French detachment are negotiating with the Indians, covering up fraud and deception with their ignorance of the language.
Only Hugh Glass can speak the Indian dialect. In this language, he speaks with his son when they are alone. In front of strangers, Glass forbids his son to open his mouth – he knows that whites will not listen to a half-breed Indian, for them he is like dumb. In this language, there is a parable that the wife tells Glass. It is as if the wisdom of nature, the whisper of wind and grass are heard in the sounds of this language. This once again underlines Glass’s connection with nature. At the same time, he seeks to get away from idle talk, telling Captain Henry: “I love silence.”
Hugh Glass and an Indian do not need many words to understand each other.
Lying on a stretcher in a semi-faint state, Glass is unable to utter a word. He is forced to remain silent when, in front of him, Fitzgerald kills his son Hawk. At this moment, he himself is like an Indian among whites who do not know his language. But, having met an Indian on the road, Glass easily negotiates with him. He saves his life by humbly kneeling before the owner of these places. He asks for some meat with gestures. Their communication is laconic, but each word matters more than the idle chatter of whites. Once in the French camp, Glass again, with the help of just a couple of words, manages to agree with the captured girl. Communication with Indians is clearly better for him than with white people.
So what’s the point of The Revenant
Above, I have placed the characters in their places on a conventional scale from “positive” to “negative”. These terms in themselves do not like me, and in relation to this film, they seem inappropriate at all. Of course, the main source of evil in this film is the traitor and murderer John Fitzgerald. But which of the heroes can be called unconditionally positive? The simple-minded Jim Bridger, who failed to discern the deception in Fitzgerald’s words and became a traitor against his own will? Captain Henry, who equipped a detachment on an aggressive campaign in the lands of the Indians? Or the Indians who have been at war with each other on this land for centuries? Or maybe Hugh Glass, who made bloody revenge the goal of his life?
I do not give answers to these questions. I can only say that this film is about moral choice, and about the huge difference between the values of different people, and about different ideas about justice, and about the different languages we speak … Many of us – especially those who judge others too harshly Like John Fitzgerald, envy of Captain Henry’s noble origins and Hugh Glass’s skills, they have never been in a critical situation and do not realize how difficult it is to act and make decisions in the conditions in which the heroes of the film live. The “Survivor” will teach someone to go forward to their goal, without giving themselves a chance to lose. Someone – to be more attentive to others and learn to listen, not dividing people into “white” and “red-faced”. And for some, the meaning of the movie The Revenant will turn out to be something completely different. But the main thing is