When watching Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ‘The Revenant,’ these lines by Wallace Stevens came to my mind many times.
Among twenty snowy mountains,
the only thing moving
was the eye of the blackbird.
How could they not? The film tells the tale of human activity crushed to near-silence by the enormity of the landscape–but not quite. Within each frame, there is a trickle of movement, indicating that whatever assault the natural world may offer, be it from punishing cold or sexually aggressive bear, the human urge to colonize and explore will endure, and yet that endurance will take place nestled within a stillness more immense than anything the merely human mind could imagine, a stillness that has been on Earth for millions of years, impenetrable, impassible, unchangeable. Tom Williams’ beautiful video piece gives us a view of that stillness, but it also points up the importance of its opposite. The story of one wanderer across a frozen landscape then becomes, in a sense, the story of America.