The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, just won best film at the BAFTAs. It is a brutal story of revenge and survival in early nineteenth century America. Having seen it, I can say it’s not for the faint-hearted, but it is a gripping drama. The word ‘revenant’, meaning one who comes back from the dead, is not one we use very often (if at all) in our modern usage, but it has interesting parallels with another, in fact the only one, who really did return from the dead. He too, was severely wronged and suffered cruelty at the hands of those around him, just as DiCaprio’s character (Hugh Glass) did in the film.
However, unlike DiCaprio’s character, this other one who returned from the grave (Glass was literally buried), did not take revenge, but showed us an alternative way to live. This is the challenge for us at this time in the church year as we journey towards Easter; not to pursue those things that perpetuate evil, but rather, with the Spirit’s help, choose a different way to the way of the world that seeks to exact vengeance on those who have harmed us. We all can, with divine help, break the cycle of violence and hatred and bring some hope.
The final image of the film is DiCaprio staring bleakly into the camera after the death of the one he sought to kill, with coldness in his eyes. By contrast, the eyes of the Nazarene look into all our eyes and souls with love and forgiveness.
By the Revd Bruce Goodwin, Chaplain, University of Gloucestershire.