Archive for the ‘Into the Wild’ Category


Into the Wild: New Year, New Courage

January 7, 2009


Happy New Year, everyone!  As we take this time to reflect on the lessons of the past and resolve to make changes for the future I thought it would be appropriate to ring in the new year with a film that explores what it means to make sacrifices, take risks, and venture into unknown territory.  Don’t you just love this new era of hope and change?

Superbly written, acted, and directed Into the Wild chronicles the true life story of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), a jaded college graduate who literally burns away his existence (his social security card) and donates all of his life’s savings for the purpose of trekking to Alaska to find himself.  Adopting the moniker Alexander Supertramp and armed with few material possessions, McCandless’s  journey takes him through South Dakota, California, Nevada, and Arizona where he encounters spirited individuals who shape his rebirth. 

It is McCandless’ family that is at the center of his conflict and the catalyst for his quest.  As his sister Carine McCandless (Jena Malone) narrates we discover that Chris is motivated by a troubled childhood in which he endures his parents’ constant fighting and their cover-up of an illegitimate sibling.  McCandless comes to resent  his parents’ emotional abandonment and though they are financially secure, as he puts it, “money emboldened their blindness”.   As  Billie and Walt McCandless (Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt) struggle to seek answers surrounding Christopher’s disappearance they are forced to reconcile with their own faults in rearing him.



Christopher’s rebellious nature notwithstanding he is surprisingly enlightened, focused, and more importantly, open to the life-altering journey in which he embarks. Though his speech at times is peppered the run-of-the-mill slacker jargon (where every sentence is followed by “man”) positive self talk and affirmations are at the foundation of his speech.  “Power is an illusion”, “money makes you cautious”, and “the core of man’s spirit comes from new experiences” are only a few nuggets of wisdom in which he espouses to those whom he encounters.  As Chris is an avid reader and historian Into the Wild  is full of  literary metaphors and other poetic fluff from noted philosophers and writers including Tolstoy, London, and Thoreau.

Towards the end of the film, Christopher gains his greatest wisdom in Ron Franz (Hal Holbrook), a widower, recovering alcoholic, and surrogate grandfather of sorts.  As Franz teaches the art of forgiveness and love Chris begins to examine the true meaning of happiness.  One of the most beautiful moments in the film is during a scene on a mountain in which Franz likens love and forgiveness to the light of God.  Still determined to make it to Alaska, McCandless has a true moment of clarity in which he learns to finally forgive his parents. 



At the film’s close, my initial thought was “how could someone so smart be so stupid”.  As Chris made the ultimate sacrifice of leaving everything behind he gave little if no consideration for how his family would be affected.  Though his motives were incredibly selfish it is possible that he would have never encountered his surrogates had he have not left home in the first place.  And just what is the perfect childhood?  Is there such a thing? 

In “Eat Pray Love”, her bestselling biography of a woman rediscovering herself via travels to three very different foreign countries, Elizabeth Gilbert writes in the introduction “Tell the truth.  Tell the truth.  Tell the truth.”  Chris’ imperfect childhood was his truth.  His need to “emancipate himself from a world of distraction”  was his truth and though you or I may not be brave enough to incinerate our existence, abandoning those who abandoned him was Chris’ truth.  Behold, the tragic hero in all his glory. 

McCandless could have saved himself a heap of heartache had he learned to forgive earlier in his journey.  Thus, Into the Wild is a cautionary tale.  For its beautiful depiction of what it means to express boldness and follow ones instinct I give it 3 Siggy’s.  Bring a tissue.