After writing the screenplay for sci-fi thriller "The Martian," Drew Goddard described the finished product to star Matt Damon as a "love letter to science." After seeing the trailers, behind-the-scenes shots, and reading various interviews for "The Revenant," I'm thinking director Alejandro González Iñárritu has just crafted something similar –– but to nature.
What makes "The Revenant" different from other nature survival films does not have much to do with it's story. Sure, there's more emotional meat on its bones because it's based on some wild true events, but the main themes of man vs nature and revenge are familiar. The difference lies in how all of this is presented on screen –– an arduous, time-consuming, backbreaking dedication by Iñárritu and Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki to skipping over the CGI and embracing nothing but the natural setting around them. Including whatever light was available to shoot the scenes.
"We are shooting in such remote far-away locations that, by the time we arrive and have to return, we have already spent 40% of the day," Iñárritu told Deadline earlier this year. "But those locations are so gorgeous and so powerful, they look like they have never been touched by a human being, and that’s what I needed. The light is very reduced here in winter, and we are not shooting with any electrical lighting, just natural light. And every single scene is so difficult — emotionally, technically."
Shooting in the extreme wilderness of Alberta, Canada led to frozen cameras, monitors, and lots of uncomfortable moments for the cast and crew.
"Whether it’s going in and out of frozen rivers, or sleeping in animal carcasses, or what I ate on set," star Leonardo DiCaprio told Yahoo movies. "[I was] enduring freezing cold and possible hypothermia constantly."
That overarching decision, to involve nature in dictating both the visuals and the performances from the cast, is what makes "The Revenant" something special in cinema. Beyond just the trailer, Lubezki has posted some snapshots to his Instagram account showing just how beautiful the natural light was for framing.
From the set of 'The Revenant' (Photo: Emmanuel Lubezki/Instagram)From the set of 'The Revenant' (Photo: Emmanuel Lubezki/Instagram)From the set of 'The Revenant.' (Photo: Emmanuel Lubezki/Instagram)
Even the official movie poster for 'The Revenant' makes clear as to who the real star of the film is.
The official one-sheet for 'The Revenant' (Photo: The Revenant)So here's hoping that not only does DiCaprio finally score his long-awaited Oscar, but that everyone else involved in this epic love letter to nature nabs one too. It's not often that a film so visceral in its storytelling so accurately captures an environment to match.