Into the Wild   April 24th, 2010

Originally Written 11/08/07

I saw Into the Wild tonight. I really didn’t know what I’d think of the film, the journey of a young man, who graduates college, drops out of society and ends up trekking to the wilderness of Alaska where he ultimately dies of starvation. I was a little worried about my own prejudices going into the movie. There is something to be said for living your life your way, but you also have to be smart about it, especially doing something like that. You don’t screw around in the woods.

I was really happy with the film though. I thought it was pretty even handed with things and didn’t praise or judge him too much. I did feel that the beginning of the film kind of romanticized his adventures to some extent, but in the end it did show the harsh reality and the consequences of getting in over your head. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that most of the film didn’t take place in Alaska.

The narrative kept on jumping back to fill in the story of the past. We learned of his troubled family life and also saw the two year journey where he tramped around the country, before heading to Alaska on his final stage of self-discovery. Those two years were made up of several little vignettes, stories where he’d meet people who became his friends and even surrogate families.

There was some wonderful drama and joy in those stories. Even there though, the film did show moments where he was being selfish, as he’d move on when he got wander lust and also touched upon how he’d left his family in the dark and never told them where he was. There were several scenes where I wanted to shake him and tell him to see what he had where he was, and to abandon the useless quest.

In the end, the movie was sad and beautiful and made me long for what might have been. The greatest irony is that he’d wanted to head out of the wilderness, but had been trapped there and then his situation had deteriorated. If not for a couple of mistakes, he might have lived to tell his tale and learned to make it back into people’s lives again. Of course this is a dramatization of a book written about him, but it’s my understanding that it was written from reading the journals he kept and talking with the people he’d met on the road, so hopefully it’s somewhat accurate.

The shots of nature were wonderful in the movie as well. There were scenes of beauty and wonder that were also tempered with the stark reality of the expanse of wilderness. The artful choreography of the film was quite wonderful. If not for the chapter in Alaska, it made an good travelogue, made only more riveting by the knowledge of what was eventually going to pass. In the end, I was left with a profound sense of loss and a bit of futility, which I think is fitting.

Update 04/24/10

After seeing the film, I listened to the audio book of the same name which the movie was based on. The book was longer and gave a lot more information about Christopher McCandless and explains some of his problems with his family, especially his father, which led up to his walkabout trip. There were a lot more details about the places he went and the people he met as well.

The book is more matter-of-fact about things, so it didn’t have the same emotional and dramatic impact as the film did. However, the film is liked a dramatization of many of the events, so while it plays better as a narrative, the book might be closer to the truth. However since McCandless didn’t survive, we can never know.

The book also talked about other people’s misadventures in the wilds of Alaska, many of them who died from it. The author even tells of his own crazy youth on a mountain climbing trip that he was lucky enough to return form, despite a few bad ideas. These added stories gave a lot of depth to the book and complemented McCandless’ story.

This entry was posted on Saturday, April 24th, 2010 at 6:02 am and is filed under Books, Movies and TV. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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