A meditation on the making and meaning of the Oscar-winning film The Revenant, one of 2015's most astounding cinematic achievements, A World Unseen exposes the soul-plunging struggles involved in bringing an epic vision to the screen.
It's definitely a mammoth project that commands reflection. A largely embellished story centered around a real-life 19th century frontiersman named Hugh Glass, The Revenant is perhaps most notable for its bitterly grueling shooting conditions and ferocious lead performance from actor Leonardo DiCaprio. The documentary explores the fabric of these elements and much more.
The film's production was a Herculean task from the start. In the documentary's centerpiece interview, director and co-writer Alejandro Inarritu grapples with his reasoning for taking it on. It seems that the project's degree of difficulty - shooting in hostile climates throughout some of the world's most remote locations - was exactly the point. He wanted to set a nearly impossible challenge for himself both physically and creatively, and witness the transformations that occurred therein.
That same searching and unquenchable spirit infected the rest of his cast and crew. Their sacrifices are apparent in the very marrow of the completed picture. Through a candid conversation with DiCaprio, we discover the means by which he uncovered deeper and more primal layers within himself during the process of shooting. Together, he and Inarritu managed to find poetry in nature's indifference, and in the lead character's fight for survival in the face of tremendous adversity.
Beyond the nuts and bolts of the movie making process, the documentary also elucidates the environmental factors that informed the film. The harsh winter setting dictated the emotional temperature of each scene, and the picture evolved in direct synchronicity with the challenges it brought forth. We're also given a historical context for each location, and we learn how that history is still recognizable in the terrain and reflected in the way we regard the natural world today.
Featuring a wealth of sumptuously photographed behind the scenes footage and fascinating insights from artists who work in various departments, A World Unseen is an exploration that's more than worthy of its breathtaking subject.