We’ve heard about the ambitious plans that Alejandro Inarritu enacted to make his revenge drama “The Revenant”. Hoping to shoot entirely in sequence in remote locations in Calgary with only natural light, the weather didn’t co-operate and led to delays and production issues. Filming began nearly a year ago, had a break, and will finally finish up its last bit of shooting this month with a week-long stint on the other side of the world – Tierra del Fuego.
Even so, the first trailer was released the other day to a rousing reception for its stunning cinematography and nearly wordless conveyance of story. The latter isn’t just a feature of the trailer though as actor Leonardo DiCaprio recently revealed to Grantland that the film is almost dialogue free and that he portrays a kind of American rarely seen in cinema:
“It was a different type of challenge for me because I’ve played a lot of very vocal characters. It’s something that I really wanted to investigate – playing a character that says almost nothing. How do you relay an emotional journey and get in tune with this man’s angst… without words?
I tried to capture – or emulate on film – a different type of American that I haven’t seen on film very often,. This [was] an unregulated, sort of lawless territory. It hadn’t been forged into the America that we know yet. It was still sort of up for grabs”
The film is based on the true story of 1820s frontiersman Hugh Glass who was attacked by a bear, left for dead by his two companions, and set out to track them down and enact his revenge. Inarritu confirms this, adding a few more details and saying that he added a familial element to Glass’ story to make him more empathetic:
“Honestly, Leo, he’s attacked by a bear, and after that, he becomes almost like a silent character: a lot of things going on, but no words. That’s for me the essence of cinema: not to rely on the words, but images and emotions. Revenge is a feeling [that] when you commit it, it leaves you empty. It’s not a wholesome emotion, and it’s not satisfying.”
With only an hour or two of filming available each day to capture the kind of light they were after, DiCaprio spoke about the pressure of getting his performance right:
“To pull off these complicated sequences, like a ballet, movement needed to be precise. When it came down to that nail-biting moment to capture that magic light, every day was like putting on a mini-piece of theater. If we lost that one hour, if we didn’t accomplish what we had to accomplish, we were there the next day. And oftentimes many of these locations were very remote. So it was a very intense set, because we knew we only had one shot every single day. Otherwise … we would be back there again.”
“The Revenant” opens in cinemas on Christmas Day.