Only once in awhile do I see a movie that really makes me think for several days afterward. At this point in time, I can only name two others: The Life of David Gale and A Home at the End of the World. However, as of right now, I’m adding Into the Wild to that list.
So, this is a pretty old movie and I’m a bit late to the game. I came to want to see this movie in a very round about way, because of the music from it actually. Before I got my hands on a copy, I read a lot online about Chris McCandless and was quite fascinated with him before I ever saw the film.
More than anything, the film is beautifully shot. I loved all the scenery from Chris’ wanderings, especially those in Alaska. The film was slow in spots (or so I thought) and eerily sad because, well because you KNOW how it ends after all. I think Chris was portrayed as some sort of a modern-day saint because his fate was known throughout the movie; he was like God to many of the people he encountered, already dead in a sense, with insight and wisdom beyond what might seem humanly possible. This really only added to the intrigue of him, I think, and made you feel at least somewhat sorry for him.
I’ve read online that there are a great many people who believe that Chris went to Alaska to die, that that was his purpose. I disagree. I think surely he had to know it was a possibility but maybe perhaps because of his youth or his adventurous spirit or his high moral standard he thought that fate wouldn’t apply to him. I perceived an invincible (although not at all arrogant) attitude in him of sorts, although, of course, that could be completely wrong. However, to not prepare for the Alaskan wilderness any better than he did shows over-confidence at least. It seemed that Chris wanted to be friends with nature more than nature wanted to be friends with him.
But, I cannot fault him for that. To live an adventurous life is to take things one step too far and, of course, everyone dies. Chris wanted to live in the wilds of Alaska – and, really, who could blame him? – and he did. Perhaps he was over-confident, perhaps he wasn’t prepared enough, perhaps he didn’t consider that death might be a result for him. But, none of that is really the point, is it? The point is that he LIVED. He lived on his own terms, he followed his dream and made it happen.
And this is what mainly provokes thought.
However, I was also very struck by how connected Chris was to the natural world, even eschewing and running from human connections in favor of it. He had family circumstances that pushed him from them but he had others along the way who wanted to love him and he ran from that too. Only in the end did he see the need for both nature and sharing happiness with others. Only when it was too late to do so. But, the realization must have been worth something to him too.
I love that he lived with so little, that he lived so close to nature, that he chose to live that way, that that was happiness to him and that even through what must have been a horrific death, he acknowledged a happy life.
It also strikes me that Chris McCandless was just an ordinary guy. He wasn’t famous in his life. He did all that he did out of the desire to do so, not the desire to be acknowledged. Only in his death has he been made famous. It makes me wonder what ordinary people among us are harboring adventurous spirits and questions about life just as insightful and complex as his. And what answers we could come to should we allow it.
I’m sure to Chris, this was all very normal. He obviously felt that he was doing what he should be doing and saw nothing out of the ordinary enough for any fanfare whatsoever. And this only adds to the appeal and mystique of him because for so many of us, following our dream is not even second-nature. To Chris, it was first-nature. To him, there was no other way to live.
It makes me sad to think that his death might in any way have overshadowed the life that he lived. From everything I can gather about him, he would have much rather died young having lived a full life on his own terms than lived to a ripe old age being chained to a desk all of his life. Alaska was not a death sentence for him; convention would have been.
I know that Into the Wild is a Hollywood adaptation of this story. I know that many of the things that happened in the film very likely did not actually happen to Chris. No one really knows all that he went through and the beautifully pale person who zipped himself up in his sleeping bag and gazed up at a cloudy Alaskan sky with tears rolling down his face to die probably really wasn’t. What he actually went through would likely be more fodder for reality TV than material for an amazingly beautiful movie that inspired scores of people around the world.
However, it isn’t rocket science to posit that it is more the spirit of Chris and the film that inspires, not actually what happened. The spirit of adventure, of minimalism, of optimism, of interconnectedness and of believing in your dreams. The spirit of appreciating and being satisfied with what is on this earth already and not constantly needing more.
There are more layers and insights to this movie than could possibly ever be compiled in one blog posting. Many people love Chris; some people think he was a fool. Regardless, there is something about him that can appeal to anyone, if they will be honest and allow it. Perhaps it will serve to show that living is possible no matter how many days one has on earth.
This movie has a secure spot in my top favorites and I will hopefully think about its spirit for years to come.
“Rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness… give me truth.” – Chris McCandless (more quotes from Chris here…)
I will be reading the book soon and watching the movie again this weekend.
Note: While I would love to see Alaska, it is not my desire to give up everything and go live in the wild. I am not physically strong enough even if it were. I would like some of that spirit though…