The Revenant (the novel and the movie) and PTSD
First things first, I won’t spoil either the novel version or the movie version of The Revenant. Second, The Revenant is not exactly my type of book or movie, but this was for one of my book clubs. We read the book, then saw the movie, then had dinner to discuss the differences. We had done this with Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn) and my other book club had done this with The Giver (Lowis Lowry- YA).
I HAVE to say that they are almost two different stories though, so if you saw the movie, give the book a chance, and if you read the book, be prepared to be amazed at how much they can Hollywoodize a survival story of revenge.
The novel is a fictionalized account of what Michael Punke (the author) believes happened to real life fur trapper, Hugh Glass in the 1820’s. He is attacked by a bear (hey, that was in ALL of the trailers, I didn’t spoil that) while he and his fellow trappers are navigating some part of the US that apparently has snow year round.
In the novel, Hugh struggles with survival before and after the bear attack, and refuses to die, simply on sheer will to right a wrong (yes that’s cryptic, but no spoilers, remember?).
In the movie, Hugh struggles with survival before and after the bear attack and is driven to seek his revenge (while refusing to die) because of two GREAT misdoings against him (no spoilers, remember?). I will say this. The first grave misdoing will make you question humanity. Who on earth could do that to a living person? It was definitely traumatic. I have had patients that have experienced similar traumas in life and they are changed for life after experiencing it.
So while in a feverish state this week, I actually took some time off. In my nyquil induced sleepyness the other night I had this thought:
So many of my Soldiers that have experienced combat have survivor’s guilt. Why didn’t Hugh? (in the movie)
Could sheer anger and revenge be that powerful of a force to ward off the symptoms of PTSD? In the movie especially, Hugh deals with a few nighmares, a few flashbacks; but there are many, many times he could have just given up and died, but he kept fighting. To right a wrong. To make sure that an evil person did not get praise.
Now, I am not suggesting that Service Members go all vigilante on the enemy and that will “cure” their PTSD. That’s not my point. I was just intrigued by this. Could those of us suffering from PTSD fight against our trauma? In a political reformation kind of way. Lobby for better healthcare and mental healthcare for Veterans? Demand stricter prison sentences for rapists?
It’s a thought. It certainly puts the anger and rage often associated with PTSD to good use.
I am interested in your thoughts both about The Revenant and using the rage in PTSD, please feel free to comment. Post Spoiler warnings though 🙂