The Revenant (film): A time before nature-disconnectedness existed

For me, inspiration that escalates into the desire to write often comes in bursts of sudden surprise. I don’t know when it’s going to come, or why it’s even arrived – but I like that it’s there – it’s even better unexpected because it catches me off guard, becoming all the more powerful. This week, Monday to be precise, this happened to me after a visit to my local cinema in Newark. Going along to ‘screen unseen’ – an unnamed movie that’ kept a secret until you’re committed and seated in front of the screen – unravels in front of me. From the powerful snowy background and beard of Hugh Glass, played by DiCapio, takes me only a second to realise I’m about to encounter The Revenant.

 spend more time with nature, even when it’s raining and you’ll feel better for it too.

People interpret things differently – we all take something completely different from what we’re experiencing – it’s in our nature. It’s what makes us all unique. From absorbing the emotions that decorate people’s faces within the rows of seats, I can tell, that many, are finding the film difficult to watch. For starters, the strongest scenes that present pain are drawn-out, detailed and undeniably violent. We watch Hugh Glass get mauled by a bear – the scene so realistic, so detailed, that your mind for a second worries that the bear will get you next. The aftermath leaves many people huffing annoyingly at the bear, perceiving it as nothing more than a monster.  However, from me, I feel inspired – moved even. For this bear is in fact a hero. Confronting a man with a gun – a threat to her two cubs – she decides to risk her life (getting shot at along the way) in effort to increase the likelihood of their survival. She is relentless, tearing chunks of Hugh’s flesh right off his body and pounding him like mash. She is simply a mother trying to survive among the wilderness, protecting her children. She wins, the price of her life increasing the chances of her cub’s survival. I found that admirable.

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This is what I appreciated about the film the most. Riddled throughout it, were extremely intimate scenes with nature. Good and bad. In bright and bold shots we watch as stunning landscapes unfold before us – some of the most wildest places left on Earth – British Columbia and Alberta including Victoria, Fortress mountain, Calgary. These landscapes are not littered by concrete and brick, but are elevated by strong trees, swimming reindeer, fresh snow and mountains so high that their tips only meet with the clouds – and we’re talking in all directions. To think that all of the Earth was naked of our presence once.

The film is set in 1892 – a time when most people still considered themselves as part of nature, not separate from it. In most of the scenes people are not cocooned and isolated by buildings, but seek shelter in caves, under trees and even within animal carcasses (a dead horse). They do what they need to survive. Not a single day is taken for granted. The food they eat has been foraged and hunted – each step of the process taking time and effort – from making fishing nets to hunting down prey. Nothing is left uneaten. Parts of the animal that can be used for any other purpose, whether a weapon for protection (bear claws) or skin for warmth, it is utilised. This was a time when people were not wasteful. Compare this to the modern day consumer who turns their nose up to an apple with simple bit of bruising, and of a generation of children who think that food is grown in supermarkets, it is evident that we’ve got a huge generational shift in lack of appreciation of life and death, soil and air.

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There’s one simple scene that really sticks in mind for me – a moment when Glass and a newly found friend are resting under a tree admiring the snow. As it gently falls across their faces, despite the blistering cold, they stick out their tongues – trying to catch the cool moisture on their tongues. It makes them laugh, bringing two different people from corners of the world together. I laughed, connecting to the moment.  I used to do this once as a child, with both rain and snow, and yet, I couldn’t even recall the last time I’d seen anyone take notice of the rain. Instead, they blocked out the element with umbrellas and roofs, often perceiving rain and snow as nothing more than a damp inconvenience.  People have become passive to the natural world we live in. I promised to myself that I’d let my tongue catch the rain when it next arrived.

I’m scared of the future. Our beautiful landscapes and wildlife are rapidly disappearing. Our appreciation of nature is being overridden by the desire to consume and swim among that we’ve purchased.

There is one thing that keeps me hopeful – our connection – for all isn’t entirely lost yet. I’ve watched people receive joy, strength and healing from contact with nature. I’ve even watched children all over the UK aided of their ADHD and anxiety symptoms from learning outside the classroom. Trust me when I say this: spend more time with nature, even when it’s raining and you’ll feel better for it too.

Thank you Alejandro González Iñárritu for such a beautiful film. I hope the world watches it. It’s not very often you get to see nature dictating both the visuals and the performances from the cast. This is what makes The Revenant beyond something special.

Emma
Author Profile: Emma Oldham.
A
nature-lover, writer, communicator and outdoor educator. She loves nothing more than reading a novel outside or looking up at the stars. Working for The Wildlife Trusts she aims to connect as many people with nature, particularly children, with nature.

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