The Year in Liturgical Cinema: Ash Wednesday and Lent

“The Liturgical Year in Cinema” is an ongoing series done by ChristianityToday, a personal exploration of the thematic connections between the Christian calendar and films. February 10 marked the celebration of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, the season of preparation for Easter, and time for reflecting upon our own mortality and our need for repentance.

The dead man pulls himself out of the grave. Spittle flies from his mouth and mixes with the surrounding snow as he crawls through slush, grime, and blood. He’s been left for dead, abandoned by his companions in the wintry North American wilderness after his narrow survival of a vicious bear attack. He wanders through the wilderness, driven by vengeance.

The Revenant was recognized this year as an immersive, visceral cinematic experience. We follow Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) on his journey across the beautiful-yet-brutal landscape.

“Revenant” means “a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead.”

Glass is hounded by death, as everything in his environment seems bent on trying to kill him. The surrounding creation is cold, both physically and emotionally, uncaring about his plight for survival. Nearly every human being he encounters along the way attempts to kill him. The lone Native American who helps Glass is hung by French trappers with a sign around his neck: “We Are All Savages.”

Death triumphs over mercy in this savage world. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu shoves our faces in the violence and depravity of it all. Death is inevitable for every human being; it surrounds us, and we cannot escape it.

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