Sunday, June 19, 2011

Movie review: "Into the Wild"

Who has not thought at least once of abandoning the expectations and responsibilities of everyday life and escaping to an existence off the grid and off the map?

A self-portrait of Christopher McCandless in his Alaska camp

Christopher McCandless did so in 1990 and his story is told in the thought-provoking and bittersweet movie "Into the Wild."

Upon graduating from college in Georgia, McCandless (Emile Hirsch) abandoned his material things, gave away and burnt his money, and changed his name to Alexander Supertramp. For more than a year, he wandered the American West, hitchhiking, exploring and hanging out with hippies and others on the fringe of society. Eventually, he ended up living, then dying, in an abandoned bus deep in the Alaska wilderness.

In "Into the Wild," we see McCandless explicitly choosing freedom over family and truth over love. No doubt many viewers will envy McCandless in his odyssey, free from obligations and reveling in the beauty of nature.

But the movie makes it clear that as much as McCandless tried to isolate himself, his actions do not take place in isolation. His disappearance grievously hurts his parents and sister, and others he meets on his travels are hurt as well by his habit of leaving just as they are getting close to him. It is only in the end that McCandless longs to share his life with others, but by then it is too late.

There is perhaps more in "Into the Wild" than can be grasped in one viewing. It challenges the viewer to consider our own choices and priorities, and it doesn't necessarily give us easy answers.

The one thing that troubles me most about the movie is determining how much of it is true. The basics of McCandless' travels are true, but the movie has clearly expanded and embellished on what is known.  For example, the diary McCandless left behind in the bus was actually fairly cryptic. Since that's the only record of his life there, much had to be invented to flesh out the story.


(Please support this blog by clicking on an ad.)

No comments:

Post a Comment