After watching ‘The Revenant’, here are my takeaways:
1. Excellent casting of First Nations talent. Very commendable.
2. Mesmerizing vistas, canyons and cliffs displaying the gorgeousness and power of Canada. My home country’s northern regions, shot in all natural light, standing in for, and representing, in a way, both the addictive, sinister and obsessive white whale that our hero chases, the chase itself, and paradoxically, the grand and beautiful sentiment of patriarchal love for a son.
3. Excellent score, original and selected, by Ryuchi Sakamoto and Alva Noto. (The duo who I was lucky enough to see perform a few years ago in a Barcelona amphitheatre)
4. The use of John Luther Adams’ epic ‘Become Ocean’, which in the discussed context, in the realm of musical semiotics presents a sublime example of what Philip Tagg (check out his book Musical meanings) refers to as a ccomposite anaphone (musical analogy). Comprising of both sonic, and kinetic versions of the anaphone, the use of ‘Become Ocean’ serves as a sonic signifier of both the water, wind, and other natural noises of the unforgiving wild Canadian rural, while at the same time, providing a kinetic signpost to the travels, movement and mental transit, over endless rolling hills and valleys, of the characters within the narrative.
5. The use of Olivier Messiaen’s not oft performed piece ‘Oraison’ (Fr. prayer), scored for 6 Ondes Martenots, (which was the precursor to his ethereal, and more widely known, ‘Louange a l’eternite de Jesus’), underscoring the lead character’s emergence from a horse. Given the significant religious influence present in Messiaen’s music, as well as the biblical connotations present in the title (‘the revenant’ is an archaic term to return from dead), as well as the afore-mentioned Melville similarities, there is much interest to be found in this scene. This particular moment in the film would have been monumentally different, if alternate (or none) underscoring was provided. Wonderfully calculated. And performed by an ensemble from Montreal! Yeah!
6. The totally non-diagetic use of running water to underscore many scenes. Tying edits together of different locations and viewpoint. It is so skillfully woven in, and applied, that it will surely go unnoticed to many viewers. When looked at as a whole, the use of ‘Become Ocean’ which Adams composed to provide a sonic analogy to the grand deep blue, and the use of an actual running hillside brook, as a musical tool, provides some stimulating insight into the desires, goals and objectives of the filmmakers. I will indeed call you Ishmael.
Now go dream on this: