Manifest Destiny & The Revenant

As a Film and Media major, I was so excited that we were going to talk about the movie, The Revenant, in class last week. While the violence is very graphic and it is sometimes hard to understand what the characters are saying (I’m looking at you, Tom Hardy), I do think The Revenant is a brilliant film, especially through its cinematography. The director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, is exceptional, along with the cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki (also known as Chivo) who worked with Iñárritu before on his previous Oscar winning film, Birdman (which is also brilliant). As a sort of film buff myself, I already knew that Iñárritu used no artificial lighting in his movie, except in one scene. I already knew the immense struggle the actors and the film crew had to go through because of the weather, which greatly shortened their shooting schedules.

Edit: Here I attached a video from Collider. The video is a short interview with both Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy and their experience while filming (which starts around the 1:45 mark) .

One thing that I never really considered about the movie though that the Professor really emphasized in lecture, was the integration of a different culture and the whole concept of Mestizo. If the Manifest Destiny had to happen, I believe that Europeans should have been more like the character of Hugh Glass, who is 50% European and 50% American Indian. European settlers should have been more open-minded and respectful to Native American culture and territory. In an ideal world, they would have integrated themselves into a different culture, but because Native Americans were seen as “barbarians” and “uncivilized”, Europeans saw themselves as superior and more powerful than them and took away their land so they could bring more of the European culture into the Americas. Europeans feared Native American’s “savage” way of living, but Native Americans feared Europeans more due to their domination and constant threat.

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The only time Hugh Glass ever fights with other Native Americans is when they pose some sort of threat, either to himself or to the camp he is apart of. And while I think the dream sequences were unnecessary to the film, they do highlight his Pawnee self, and add a sense of fantastical nature, which usually appear in Iñárritu’s films. His friendship with the other Pawnee Native American also showcases that though Hugh Glass is not fully Pawnee, since he is partly Pawnee, he is still considered part of the tribe. And the man helps him out because Glass is one of the only ones left that is part of his people.

The film also emphasizes the environment and surroundings that the characters are in during the time period the movie takes place in, which showcases the beauty and brutality of nature (which is a binary). The picture that I attached below is absolutely breathtaking, but it also shows how isolating nature can be, which is what the Native Americans were going through the time of the Manifest Destiny and are still going through today.

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How Discipline Instills Fear

One reason the Roman Empire got to its point of power was because of the discipline exhibited by both its citizens and soldiers. My question is how did they achieve this level of discipline? Surely, not everyone was willing to follow certain methods like murdering innocent villagers (which they did to completely demolish the city of Carthage), just so the Romans could conquer and control more territory in order to reiterate that they were better than everyone else, right?  Of course, tactics such as decimation and Manlia Imperia were used to keep Romans in line, but did no one think that those tactics were unjust and wrong? Did no one try to rebel against them? My theory is that nobody had the guts to rebel against these tactics because they were afraid that these tactics would be used against them. Nobody wants to die being beaten to death by their closest friends. They valued their life over their morality, which is what most people would do in that situation. I am just surprised that no one, at least no one historically famous, tried to take down the Roman Empire from the inside. Sure, one could argue that Brutus killing Julius Caesar, was an inside act of revolt against the Roman Empire, but Brutus only killed Julius Caesar because he did not want him to be the one and true dictator of the Roman Empire.

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Brutus did not wish for the whole Empire to collapse – he did not wish for inhumane executions to cease, and why would he? He was in a position of power in the Roman Empire, he was in the Roman Senate, he was of higher class; Rome overall has treated him very well. Yet, he later committed suicide out of fear when he saw that there was no chance for his army to defeat Caesar’s son, Octavian (later called Augustus), who wanted justice for his father’s death and saw Brutus’s actions as a betrayal against the Roman Empire (Source: History.com). Thus, reiterating my point that The Roman Empire’s ability to keep both its citizens and soldiers disciplined created a grave fear that anyone rivaling the Roman Empire inevitably felt when coming head to head with them.

The Roman Empire’s army structure, formation, battle knowledge, experience, and ability to follow orders gave them advantage over any enemy. As said in lecture, “Romans may not win all the battles, but they win all the wars.” In the Tacitus excerpt, Agricola is giving a rallying the troops speech to his army so they can defend Britain, yet he knows that the speech is all just a ruse. The Roman Empire has already conquered many lands and Agricola knows that they are going to face defeat. He is afraid of the Roman Empire though he refuses to show it in order to give his troops a sense of hope. Similarly, Hannibal was one of the Roman Empire’s most formidable foes, and considered one of the greatest generals of all time, yet he still ultimately failed to protect the city of Carthage and to defeat the Roman Empire. So, Rome’s discipline instilled fear into its citizens because otherwise it would lead to death and it instilled fear into its enemies because it did lead to death.