Unless an individual is an introvert, isolation may not seem like an aspect that immediately evokes beauty, but there are two movies that at excel at doing just that. At the surface level, they seem like polar opposites: they were made fifteen years from each other, take place in completely different time periods, the characters endure polar opposite climates, and they cling to survival for other reasons, and yet the isolation depicted in them is breathtaking. Of course, there are similarities; for instance, both have: legendary actors, Oscar winning directors, and captivating scores. The viewer becomes enthralled in the environment, even though they are contrasting places, both produce similar thematic elements, as well as the characterization.
Warning: There are spoilers for The Revenant!
It perplexed me at first, to find The Revenant and Cast Away as movies that execute a similar concept because everything that helps them achieve this is essentially the opposite. However, after seeing The Revenant I was compelled to watch another survival flick and Cast Away seemed to yell at me like Tom Hanks does to Wilson. Now the main characters are really nothing alike, but aspects of their journey is. Chuck Nolan, Tom Hank's character, isn't prone to wilderness living, his health isn't on the brink after being practically mauled to death by a bear, nor is he bent on revenge for the murder of his son, Hawk, like Hugh Glass, Leonardo DiCaprio character, but he is defying the odds. He is completely out of his element, after surviving his own traumatic plane clash, and as packages float in providing him with make-shift tools, he adapts. Hugh Glass already has all the skills Chuck has to learn, but his condition is horrendous. This two components kind of equal their adversary. Both are alone, out of their elements emotionally, physically, and continuously taunted by nature. The respective actors give spectacular performances portraying their man, and while I can't say Leo's salivating and crawling through a frozen tundra, or Tom Hank's dirty beach bum is beautiful up close, seeing them wander through their immense backdrops is. Nature has a way of exposing the soul. It doesn't matter each have different goals, they are still naked, reeling, and open because of their respective isolation.
The cinematography of these films is certainly a driving force to the beauty of course. Leo, doesn't have to be in the backdrop of director Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki's shot to get the scope of the impressive scenery. The sweeping shots, and stills of the devastatingly gorgeous and mountainous landscapes captivate the viewer so much, you can feel the cold seeping through the screen and encompassing you just from watching it. The vastness of it all is complete isolating. Cast Away's cinematography explores a island paradise, constantly cutting back and forth between Tom and his tropical home. Shot after shot of encompassing water and impassable tides, there is no hope in these images. There is no way to go, only increased separation; proving gorgeous places can be extreme versions of double-edged-swords.
The scores of these films continue to accentuate the the theme of isolation, each corresponding with a different tone according the character in the respective picture. For Cast Away, a man thrust into survival mode with no previous skills, relies on the love he has for his fiance for hope, Alan Silvestri's main theme brings this passion and feeling with a melancholy string piece. The emotion, the isolation, it's fantastically replicated with a sweeping soft string peace. The Revenant's composers, Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto, provide a slow string piece as well. The song manages to evoke the coldness, perhaps the death of Hawk, Hugh Glass's son, with a deary wind sound layered in the back. There is no doubt, sorrow echoes through both these songs, but they amazingly exemplify how beautiful isolation can be through textured notes and rhythm.
There are so many differences in these two masterpieces of films, yet in wilderness, and in survival, a human soul sometimes shines through.