I would agree that our culture displays a whole lot of meaningless violence, yes, even to a pornographic level, but of all the films to accuse of this, THE REVENANT is simply not one.
I’m not going to pretend THE REVENANT is the deepest, most nuanced film of the year, but it is not a film glorifying revenge or using pain as a pornographic element. The underpinnings of man as part of nature, of man entering into a realm he does not understand simply to skin it alive with no understanding of what it is they are destroying — something within themselves — is in almost every frame of the film.
The bear attack isn’t just metaphor for rape or a rape replacement for a film that was afraid to take its story there, as Carol Cadwalladr suggest in her essay, but a statement on a primal drive. A parent protecting its child. The bear isn’t just attacking Hugh Glass, it IS Hugh Glass. And it is not just Hugh Glass who is “resurrected,” (as the film’s title suggests) but the bear.
THE REVENANT walks a fine line between brutal realism and mythology, all the while summoning a reckoning for, and an exploration of, the actions of the past and, as most great films do, the present. From the very opening shots of our intrusion into nature, both as part of it and as the part that goes against the stream, the flow, to hunt something ethereal, partially shrouded, something we cannot fully see or understand, something we will eventually tear apart and look inside without actually seeing or recognizing what’s in there… As the film does with the world inside John Fitzgerald’s (Tom Hardy) once opened skull… THE REVENANT isn’t afraid to look inside. It just doesn’t open these people up, it also explores and seeks.