Sunday, November 22, 2009

A compelling adventure; 'Into the Wild'

My last blog post, song lyrics and a video, weak...I know. But I watched the movie Into the Wild the other day, and it kind of struck a chord with me...

The movie, based on the real life story of adventure-seeker Chris McCandless, is one of a young man who was full of ideals and beliefs beyond the realm of the norm.

McCandless, played by ‘The Girl Next Door’ actor Emile Hirsch, was an honour student from Emory University, who went on a two year adventure, living as a vagrant, until he eventually hiked into the Alaskan wilderness with little food and equipment. His reasons for doing this, as explained by author of Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer, is that McCandless was looking for solitude away from the society in which he (we all) lived.

The movie is both uplifting and tragic, as ultimately McCandless met his demise in the very wilderness that he longed to be in; he became trapped, and eventually starved to death in the Alaskan bush.

When his body was discovered two-weeks after his death, McCandless is reported to have been in wrapped in his the blue sleeping bag, in the abandoned ‘Fairbanks city bus 142’ that he made home. His decomposing body weighed an estimated 67-pounds.

His journal, found by his body, contained entries from his 113 days of solitude, and torn from the page of one of his books; Louis L'Amour's memoir, Education of a Wandering Man, was a final note from McCandless:

However, as tragic as the story ends, the events leading up to McCandless' death seem remarkable.

McCandless, a 23-year old man, was smart, in peak physical condition, and came from a good family. (The movie depicts his family life to be plagued with domestic violence; however it is reported that those aspects were overdramatized for the film.) He wasn't mentally ill, or unstable. Rather, McCandless was an adventure seeking kid who had different ideals and beliefs than most people. Simply put.

In the two-years prior to his death, McCandless lived as a vagrant, "thumbing it" through various parts of the United States, under the alias Alexander Supertramp. He met people, made friends, and lived his life the way he wanted to; taking pride in surviving with minimal gear and funds.

However, another tragedy in this story of Chris McCandless/Alexander Supertramp is the pain that the adveture-seeking McCandless caused his family. After he left his life behind in 1990, McCandless cut off all contact with his parents, Walt and Billie, and his younger sister Carine. His parents, desperate to find their son, hired a private investigator in the two years that he was gone, but not until September 6th, 1992, when his body was discovered by hikers and hunters, would his parents know where their son was.

The story of Chris McCandless, AKA Alexander Supertramp, is one that can be interpreted in many different ways; some people see McCandless is a sort of hero, who followed his dreams by living his life on his own terms, away from the society that he hated so much. Others, however, see McCandless as a selfish idealist, who wandered into the wilderness unprepared (no compass, map, minimal equipment, etc...) in what some people have described as "suicide".

The movie, as compelling as it is, romanticizes McCandless and his last great adventure. Though writer and director, Sean Penn does portray Walt and Billie McCandless as emotion-stricken parents, the over-emphasis on the family dysfunction seems to take away from their grief, and justify McCandless' decision to cut ties with his family, for basically no reason.

The partial narration by his sister Carine, with whom he is said to have been extremely close to, gives great insight into what kind of person Chris McCandless really was.

I understood what he was doing. That he had spent four years fulfilling the absurd and tedious duty of graduating from college. And now, he was emancipated from that world of abstraction, false security, parents and material excess. The things that cut Chris off from the truth of his existence.”

The loving sister justifies her brother’s actions, even after eventually admitting the hurt that he caused her.

The movie is a good one; the script is solid, the acting is phenomenal, and the depiction is fairly accurate according to Krakauer. Even though I already knew the tragic outcome of McCandless' story before watching it, I was still mesmorized by the odyssey that was so seamlessly depicted in this script.

Into the Wild was nominated for two Academy Awards, and has won numerous other awards, including a Golden Globe for best original song, by Pearl Jam front man, Eddie Vedder.

I recommend you check it out if you haven't already seen it...

1 comment:

  1. I just finished watching this movie. It was not bad at all. I understand that the "Hollywood" version of his story is glamorized....but it was interesting.