‘Into The Wild’ is a film that released in 2007 and was directed by Sean Penn. It is the story of a man who leaves behind the comforts of the urban life and takes up an existence in the wild. Here is an engaging review of the film.
Aishwarya Chowdhary|The New Leam
This non-fiction film by Sean Penn is based on the book by John Krakauer that goes by the same name “Into The Wild”. It is a story of a character named Christopher McCandless and his life revolving around his great Alaskan Adventure. Although, the film is based on a non-fiction book but it tells a detailed story of the man who did not live to tell his story to the world. The story is created merely based on the entries and notes that he made on this adventure. Therefore, it could be seen as a piece that is a fiction based non-fiction. I would approach this story of Christopher McCandless as a creation of Sean Penn and not that of a person who was once alive.
The film begins with the scene where we see Christopher already on his Alaskan Adventure and he finds the abandoned bus in which he spent his final months and the rest of the film alternates between two storylines, one that shows him experiencing his great Alaskan adventure and the other deals with what lead him and how he reached to live this adventure.
Chris or Christopher Johnson McCandless was a young college graduate who had his entire career, education and life ahead of him but he chose to leave all that behind to live in an Alaskan adventure. He was not one of those kids who fail to prove their worth in society’s standards or measures and then give up on society’s way of life. He was not, as he says, “A destitute” but chose that life.
We are told that he had grades good enough to make it to Haward Law School but he believes, as he says, “career is a 20th century invention” and he does not want one. So he leaves behind his urban life and all the ties and relations to begin his journey into the wild. Much of the insights that come about Chris’s character are through the narration of the story by Chris’s sister. As she narrates she tells that Chris’s breaking away was inevitable and as we are told his story we see and we understand the reason why she calls his break-away as inevitable. We see that he and his sister had a troubled childhood and often had to witness domestic violence at the hands of his father subjected on his mother. We see how he detests the material life and this again, could be because of his troubled relations between his parents who, as his sister says “were blinded by money”.
Chris on the other hand believes that money and material things were objects that make people cautious and take them away from true living. His great Alaskan adventure was his quest for true living. And when he leaves behind his life, he does not do it the moderate way, he donates his entire education fund to Oxfam, destroys his identity cards and leaves the city life in his car; it seems as if he never wishes or plans to return to this life. He then finally abandons his car and burns whatever little money he had and begins his journey. The story of his quest for living in the wild is narrated in four chapters “my own birth”, “adolescence”, “manhood”, “family” and “my own birth”.
In the beginning of his journey he abandons his identity and takes the a new name Alexander Supertramp. As the story proceeds we see Alexander grow over Christopher. Alexander is an extremist and whereas Christopher is a moderate person who fulfils the duties of living in the society.
On his journey he meets different characters and we see the growth of his character, we see this in the difference in the kind of relations his has with the people he meets. Each character tries to stop him from being an extremist and that he is too young for this extremist life but we see his growth in the way he responds to them. He first met Jan and Rainey and we see he finds initial comfort in them as tells them about his desire and overcomes fears. They tell him that he has got to be a little cautious and not totally free, to this he does not respond. He then works in a farm where he meets a man with whom he discusses his discomfort with the old life, curses the society and we see his desire to be in Alaska has grown but he is still a submissive and learning personality.
Last, when he meets Ron and we see that Alex’s character has grown for now we see Ron as a submissive personality whom Alex influences and moves. We see the growth of his personality when we see that he moves and convinces Ron when Ron thinks that he is too young to live such a life.
In his wild experience too, we see a growth and change in his personality. We see how he enjoys the solitary life in the wild. In the beginning of the story we see powerful and beautiful nature with which Chris grows and becomes fond of. We also see him surviving and taming the nature when he kills little animals and birds. However, by the mid of the story we see things going out of Alex’s control, we see his regret on shooting the moose, the meat goes bad, the river swells up, he narrowly escapes being swept away with it, he finds no animals to hunt and eat and he is then forced to eat wild berries and roots. However, he eats a wrong poisonous seed. He later encounters a bear when he is in his weakest condition and he cannot kill him. He writes that he is “literally trapped in the wild” even when he wishes to return. We know the story is leading to a morbid ending when everything is going out of his control.
While in the wild, we see him reading books and writing thoughts and learnings from his experience in the wild and we see him scribbling them on wooden plank. After living a solitary life for months we see him scribble his last scribble that read “happiness true only when shared”, this could be understood as his realisation that a shared life is true happiness. I understand the story as a passage of Christopher from a shared life to a solitary life when he curses the society, only to understand that a shared life is true happiness. We see him taking up the solitary life when he abandons his real name and takes up the name Alexander Supertramp but signs off his final words and goodbyes with his real name Christopher McCandless.
Was the quest really a solitary life in the wild or was it just a break from an urban life and the ties and relations that surrounded him. He certainly wished to return someday to the life in the society as he plans to write a book about his experience in the wild and he promises to meet people upon returning. But did he wish to return to his family and old ties? We get the answer to this in the final scene when we see his desire to return to his parents as we see him visualising himself running into his parent’s arms in the last scene when he is taking his last breathe.
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