"Stunning! THE REVENANT is gritty, primal, completely riveting and will probably win every award going, it has my vote" ... Naomi Rossdeutscher
I took my Mum and she loved it too, we fancied watching it again the very next day, so you see it's not a blokes-only film at all. The Director, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, has made some of the best cinema in recent years, including directing one of my favorite films, BIUTIFUL, with Javier Bardem, plus 21 GRAMS with Naomi Watts and Benecio del Toro. His films are unique with strong, passionate characters, and mystical elements.
Academy Award®-winning director Alejandro G. Iñárritu brings the legend of Hugh Glass to the screen with an epic adventure set in the unchartered 19th century American Frontier. While on an expedition into the wilderness, explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is attacked & abandoned. Near death, Glass undertakes an incredible 200-mile journey through a vast, icy wild West on the trail of fellow fur trader John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). He discovers inner strength and resilience to the brutality of man, animal and nature as he struggles for survival.
Directed, produced and co-written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu
“For over five years, this project was a dream for me,” says Iñárritu. “It’s an intense, emotional story set against a beautiful, epic backdrop that explores the lives of trappers who grew spiritually even as they suffered immensely physically. Though much of Glass’s story is apocryphal, we tried to stay very faithful to what these men went through in these undeveloped territories. We went through difficult physical and technical conditions to squeeze every honest emotion out of this incredible adventure.”
The film’s wilderness-based production, shot in Canada and Argentina, mirrored the harsh conditions Glass and company actually lived through in the 1800s. Leonardo DeCaprio, fully immersed in his role gives a physically intense and emotionally raw performance, and BAFTA-winning actor Tom Hardy is unrecognizable.
Says Iñárritu: “Glass’s story asks the questions: Who are we when we are completely stripped of everything? What are we made of and what are we capable of?”
Screenplay written by Mark L. Smith and Iñárritu, based in part on Michael Punke’s novel
For two centuries, the story of Hugh Glass has stood as one of the most astonishing tales of a man going beyond all expected limits of body, mind and soul. Born in Philadelphia in 1773, little is known about the real Glass’s early life, but it is believed he spent years at sea as a pirate. He journeyed west in his 30s, and in 1823, fatefully signed up for Captain Andrew Henry’s expedition to explore the Missouri River.
“I was interested in exploring not only the physical paths of Glass and Fitzgerald but also their psychologies, their dreams, their fears and their losses,” Iñárritu explains. “The storyline was a great base, as in music, but what’s going on in their minds and their hearts are the solos, the trumpets and piano.”
Iñárritu took to heart the responsibility of recreating a lost world. On the first day of filming, he assembled the production on the banks of Alberta’s Bow River – where the cast would soon wade into the icy waters for an action-packed scene. Each was handed a red rose. Blackfoot cultural advisor Craig Falcon led a ceremony aided by elders from the local Stoney tribe to bless the film, the creatures and the land. After the blessing, Iñárritu asked the 300 people to hold hands in silence. Then, in unison, they walked into the river, scattering their rose petals.
“The Revenant is an incredible journey through the harshest elements of an uncharted America. It’s about the power of a man’s spirit. Hugh Glass’s story is the stuff of campfire legends, but Alejandro uses that folklore to explore what it really means to have all the chips stacked against you, what the human spirit can endure and what happens to you when you do endure.” Says DiCaprio.
For DiCaprio, Iñárritu’s stamp on the screenplay was unmistakable. “When Alejandro came aboard, it became an exciting prospect for me because he is such a unique filmmaker,” says the actor. “I knew he could give audiences that truly immersive experience. On the one hand, it’s a primal story of existential survival, but Alejandro brings in so many different nuances, it becomes something more.”
“The bear attack was incredibly difficult and arduous,” DiCaprio recalls, “but it’s profoundly moving. In the film, Alejandro puts you there almost like a fly buzzing around this attack, so that you feel the breath of Glass and the breath of the bear. What he achieved is beyond anything I’ve seen. Glass has to find a way to deal with this full-grown animal on top of him. He’s at the brink of death – and you are fully immersed in this moment with him.”
Coming on the heels of Birdman, director Alejandro G. Iñárritu takes his passion for seamless filmmaking to a new world with The Revenant. He and his long-time cinematographer, Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, made several key decisions early on that set the rules for the production. First, they decided to shoot the film chronologically, to maintain the natural flow of Glass’s journey. Second, they committed to shooting the film relying on only the sun and firelight, bringing in no artificial lighting from later centuries, and working with the light of nature in creative ways. Finally, they wanted to explore the long, fluid, continuous shots they’ve become known for.
Working with the cutting-edge Arri Alexa 65– the brand new large-format camera from the pioneering digital camera company -- Lubezki utilized a range of wide lenses, spanning from 12mm to 21mm, to create extreme depth. The flexibility of the system lent itself to camera movements that often go from extreme close-ups to panoramas in synch with the film’s action, dreams and emotions. The team mixed three approaches -- telescoping cranes, Steadicams and hand-held work.
Fur trading began in the late 17th Century, as indigenous tribesmen exchanged their wondrously warm pelts for European’s metal tools. By the early 19th Century, as demand for fancy fur hats soared in Europe – and prices for beaver pelts reached $6/lb. the fur trade became a boost to the American economy, responsible for new trade routes that would set the stage for development of the West to come.
By the 1820s, the fur trade had reached the Rocky Mountains and become intensely competitive, with traders battling one another as well as Native tribes. Hugh Glass worked for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, then newly on the scene. The company utilized the “rendezvous system,” which meant they built no cabins or forts. Instead, their trappers were expected to hunt their own food, build their own shelter and fight their own battles, enhancing their stoic reputations.
Yet the romanticized myths of the heroic mountain men have belied some of the era’s darker realities. Many trappers spent their lives in debt, while owners of fur companies grew fabulously wealthy. And while trappers lived amid nature’s rhythms, their relationship to the environment was often adversarial – resulting in species being hunted to the brink of extinction and profound impacts on both the natural environment and the Native American cultures entwined with it.
The Arikara feature in the film, had populated the plains for more than 1000 years as semi-nomadic farmers with a rich culture before Europeans arrived. Known among their own people as the Sahnish, the Arikara were so named by other tribes for their feathered headdresses. In 1804, Lewis and Clark had encountered the Arikara, and found them peaceable. Yet by the 1820s, having been repeatedly displaced, they were in full-scale hostilities. An attack on fur trappers drew a response from the U.S. military, which decimated the tribe in the first of many brutal plains wars. The Arikara’s dwindling numbers were then reduced 70% in an 1830s smallpox plague and ensuing conflicts with the Sioux. Yet, the Arikara survived, settling in North Dakota, where the last speakers of the endangered Arikara language have kept it alive.
It was so vital to Iñárritu to authentically portray the Arikara people, that he brought in adviser Loren Yellowbird Sr., an Arikara historian, anthropologist, and Chief Interpreter and Ranger at the Fort Union Trading Post in North Dakota.
This fabulous information was sourced from the film's Production Notes