Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto & Bryce Dessner

The Revenant: Original Music

BY Luke-Julius FrenettePublished Jan 6, 2016

Much has been made about The Revenant's lengthy shooting process and extreme on-set conditions, but Leonardo DiCaprio isn't the only one who suffered along the way; renowned pianist and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto reportedly battled throat cancer while completing the score for the film with long-time co-writer Alva Noto.
The Revenant OST is the duo's fifth collaboration and moves like a symphonic version of their minimalist album Vrioon. To an already austere approach, Sakamoto seems to have added the resolve of a true survivor. The soundtrack's main theme is a foreboding sequence of intermittent, simple and sombre string arrangements that masterfully foreshadow the film's tragic story of an American fur trapper left for dead. "The Revenant Main Theme Remodeled," the last of three reprises, is Noto's recognition of that forlorn spirit, which he skilfully summons and accentuates. The National's Bryce Dessner tactfully matches the score's asceticism on his controlled crescendo "Imagining Buffalo," smoothly sustained by Berlin-based, indie orchestra s t a r g a z e.
The Revenant OST's impressively focused sound temporarily lends itself, reluctantly, to the task of mimicking the film's action. "Killing Hawk" begins with a severity that might evoke awe or dread, only to be interrupted by the witch-like clatter of who knows what; "Final Fight" tensely builds to a disjointed, tribal beat that's just too clamorous and inarticulate to express much of anything. These confused, messy measures are an unfortunate necessity, but at least they're brief and so are not enough to lessen the depth of Sakamoto and Noto's overall achievement.

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