One of the greatest environmentalist films in recent years, The Revenant is at it’s heart a story about the irony of humanity’s attempts to end it’s own suffering by dominating and destroying the natural and social world on which it depends for survival. In the clip above, the first few shots celebrate the grandeur of the wild. The silky streams of water and bright rays of sun through lush and dripping moss. The crags of frozen snow drifts are invitations to appreciate the tender majesty of the Earth. But next, the beauty of pristine nature is juxtaposed with the bleak piles of dead bison skulls, a dusky sky lit only by the moon, and the frozen camera lens covered in snow, looking up into a the obscured and fading treetops. Why are we seeking revenge against the natural world, which causes our suffering but means us no harm? Is it our place to reject the suffering our human existence forces on us? If we somehow reach our goal and dominate the acute causes of our “species specific” pain, we will inevitably become disillusioned from our physical world, forced to live in exile from our natural condition, as Rousseau feared. Which would be the greater loss: life without relief from suffering or life without wild beauty? The Revenant warns that our choice may come back to haunt us.
*Spoiler alert* There are two things about this next clip that I find mesmerizing. First, the sheer feeling of “everything-is-finally-amazing” -ness of it is incredible. It borders on a religious vision of bliss. Secondly, the comedic ark is so interesting. It starts with the awkward stares and collective disgust with a dark pool of liquid on the subway seats. Then the entire aesthetic shifts to an Nirvanic meditation on Louie disrobing before the pool, to which my immediate reaction was, “What’s he doin- oh, uh oh, where is this going..” But any expectations for mischief are instead caught off guard by the exaggerated display of deeply selfless sacrifice for the common good of all. Finally, the impossibly innocent face Louie makes while the woman strokes his beard exposes his antics. With this quick cheeseball face, Louie relieves the weight of the “meaningful experience” and prevents the natural viewer tendency toward skepticism, thereby allowing the audience to safely enjoy the profundity of what they witness till the end: the moment of recognition with an alluring young woman, the silent confirmation of the crowd that YES, Hakuna matata, we are all alive right now and things are going to be ok.