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Saturday, April 05, 2008

'Into the Wild'

'Into the Wild' is not a film that is easy to make. It is also not a film that is easy to distance oneself from. As a viewer, I am too attached to this film. I just saw it yesterday. And I know not how to write about it as a reviewer. It is too intense. It took me on a journey, a parallel journey that is much like the one that the protagonist of the film, Christopher McCandless a.k.a. Alexander Supertramp, undertakes. The film is like nothing I have ever seen (and I have seen far too many movies!) and I was completely hooked by the step-by-step progress of Chris in his search for purpose, meaning, truth and self-identity; making a statement by relinquishing material pursuits, for the sake of imbibing the true spirit of an adventurer and taking on the world.
The breathtaking and beautiful film is a treat to watch. It is very much like watching a master artist create a piece before our very eyes, a laborious endeavour that culminates with the creation of quite a masterpiece. Director Sean Penn demonstrates his very best as a maker in this 2007 film! The imagery combined with the top notch performances of actors like Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Catherine Keener and Hal Holbrook make this film a contemporary classic.
The film is an adaptation of the book by Jon Krakauer. The story begins with an unhappy family, proceeds through a series of encounters with the lonely and the lost, and ends in a senseless, premature death. But though the film’s structure may be tragic, its spirit is anything but. It is infused with an expansive, almost giddy sense of possibility, and it communicates a pure, unaffected delight in open spaces, fresh air and bright sunshine.
Christopher Johnson McCandless, the young adventurer whose footloose life and gruesome fate, is at the same time impulsive, brave and disturbed; yet he is also a dedicated spiritual pilgrim. He does not court danger but rather stumbles across it — thrillingly and then fatally — on the road to joy. In letters to his friends, he revels in the simple beauty of the natural world. Adopting the pseudonym Alexander Supertramp, rejecting material possessions and human attachments, he proclaims himself an “aesthetic voyager.” After graduating from Emory University in 1990, he sets off on a zigzagging two-year journey that took him from South Dakota to Southern California, from the Sea of Cortez to the Alaskan wilderness, where he perished, apparently from starvation, in August 1992.
The film is noteworthy for its disarming sincerity, emphasizing Chris's capacity for love, the gift for fellowship that, somewhat paradoxically, accompanied his fierce need for solitude. Though he warns one of his friends against seeking happiness in human relationships — and also rails incoherently against the evils of “society” — Chris is a naturally sociable creature. This is a reflective, regretful, serious film about a young man swept away by his uncompromising choices. Two of the more truthful statements in recent culture are that we need a little help from our friends, and that sometimes we must depend on the kindness of strangers. If you don't know those two things and accept them, you will end up eventually in a bus of one kind or another.
The movie is so good partly because it means so much, I think, to its writer-director. It is a testament like the words that Christopher carved into planks in the wilderness.

Penn, in tandem with the superb cinematographer Eric, captures the majesty and terror of the wilderness in ways that make us catch our breath. And Eddie Vedder's remarkable songs sound like the voice of Chris' unconscious. Since his death, admirers have made the arduous trip to that bus. But Into the Wild celebrates the person, not the myth. Mistakes didn't make Chris unique, his courage did. Through Penn's unmissable and unforgettable film, that courage definitely endures.


Aniruddh said...

'Into the Wild' is a multi-layered movie and hence it is really a wonderful adaptation of the original book. The real life story is tragic, but the tragedy too is multi-layered - as effectively captured in this filmed adaptation. Kudos to Sean Penn, and, of course, to Emile Hirsch for making this a movie to keep watching for ages to come. I guess it is for movies like these that the word "movie" was coined...... Truly moving!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Envirotech said...

INTO THE WILD is an underrated gem! A contemporary classic indeed!!! Wonderful post!

snowhite said...

Chris.....i salute him...he actually succeeded in doing what we all just think of doing. Into The Wild is an inspiring piece for me n made me realise how imporatent it is to have an ever changing horizon in ur life..!!
putting Chris's lines here-
"the joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun."