Into the Wild: Trapped or Liberated?

In the interest of public disclosure, a couple of them appeared in the news. For many people, the plot of the movie “Into the Wild”, directed by Sean Penn (“The Last Face”, September 11) became an adventure map to Alaska. Some tried to copy the journey Christopher made. But his ideas about wildlife and freedom turned into a tragic finale – he was bound to die, that was always certain. 


In 1992, several residents of Alaska went on a moose hunt, planning an overnight stay. They crossed the Teclanica River and planned to spend the night in an abandoned bus as a base camp for halts and stops for several days. Approaching the bus, they picked up the smell of a rotting corpse – which proved to be the two-weeks-dead body of traveler and madman Chris McCandless.

According to doctors, he died from starvation. Later, his story will become a bestseller, the plot of the film “Into the Wild”, and an example of a free spirit’s capacity to wander through more than one generation of hipsters and avid travelers.


The death note:


The Crew and the Technical Details of the Film

The script was written by Sean Penn himself and also biographer, journalist John Krakauer, who studied Chris McCandless’s life story. It was he who also authored “Into Thin Air”, a book about the tragedy of the conquest of Everest; “Under the Banner of Heaven”, a book that juxtaposes the beginning of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and a murder committed in the name of the Lord, by followers of the Mormon religion.

John Krakauer is an experienced researcher. “Into the Wild” is based on a memoir about a traveler, a story of selfless romance, and a man who is a runaway from civilization. The role of Christopher McCandless is played by the American actor, Emile Hirsch. In addition to him, Kristen Stewart appears as a 16-year-old hippie. Marcia Gay Harden (“Mystic River”, “The Mist”, “Pollock”) plays the role of Christopher’s mother, while William McChord Hurt – Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross from “The Avengers” – acts in the role of the father.

In general, the film plays out in a fascinating style, with attractive actors, and it seems that the movie surpasses the book, even idealizing Christopher himself, although many doubts about his common sense are found on the web. But this is not proven.

From the movie Into the Wild
From the movie Into the Wild


So, the film features an interesting approach to cinematography, with images subsumed by the beauties of nature as muted color reproduction complements the already harmonious alternation of macro and landscape shots. What’s also great: according to the known detail of McCandless’s wanderings, the hero travels between states, in complete freedom, changing locations and occupations.

So we see real hipsters, nudists from Copenhagen, composite characters, and one elderly man who believes in God and instills a piece of a miracle in Christopher.

It is not surprising that the film got more than 8 ratings on IMDb, and now we can imagine what a trip through America could be. But still, I propose to dig deep into the real facts.

In 1968, Christopher Johnson McCandless was born in California. When he was 8 years old, the family moved to Virginia. Chris’s father was an outstanding aerospace engineer at NASA, who later, together with his wife, founded and ran a consulting company. Soon, they managed to accumulate their first million dollars.

After graduating from Emory University, Christopher traveled through America in his car. He spent an entire summer on the road, staying in California with family friends.

Hal Holbrook and Emile Hirsch in the film Into the Wild
Hal Holbrook and Emile Hirsch in the film Into the Wild


He learns some insightful facts about his father`s earlier life: he had been married to another woman when he met Chris’s future mother, and the future mother of his sister, Carine. He remained married to his first wife, and even after Chris’s birth and Carine’s birth, fathered another child, Chris`s half-brother. Having learned all these details, Chris decided to break with the past and cut his ties to the McCandless family.

Away with the passport, away with the driver’s license, away with savings in the bank – from the moment he went into the wild, Christopher Johnson McCandless ceased to exist, and Alexander the Super-traveler appeared. Taking his favourite books (Leo Tolstoy, Jack London, Henry Thoreau, Nikolai Gogol), Chris McCandless went not to conquer new horizons, but rather to flee from reality.

As he had done before. The fact is that both Carine and Chris suffered mentally from their parents` endless quarrels and fights. From swearing to physical abuse, family troubles left a deep wound in the soul of each of the children. They were the closest of friends, and relied on each other. This is probably why the off-screen text in the film is read by Jena Malone, the voice actress who plays Christopher’s sister.  His sister was the only person who understood her brother in a subtle, emotional way.

Books became a form of salvation. Through the heroes of the stories he read, Christopher could detach himself from the world. But, as much as his books were a rescue, they also became a trap. Romance existed only on paper. The obsession with finding his inner ego takes the hero to Alaska. In April 1992, with a hunting rifle, four boxes of cartridges, books by Tolstoy, Gogol, Toro, and London, and a five-kilogram packet of rice, Chris hitchhiked to Anchorage, from which he went straight through the snow towards the forest.

He waded across the Teklanika River, found his way around beaver dams across the ice, and after a trek of about 20 kilometers came across an abandoned bus.

Emile Hirsch as Christopher McCandless in the film Into the Wild
Emile Hirsch as Christopher McCandless in the film Into the Wild

At first, things went well. McCandless hunted squirrels and woodpeckers, gathered mushrooms and berries, dug wild potato tubers, and ate rice. Once he even managed to shoot a good-sized moose. However, there were some difficulties with preserving meat. Instead of chopping meat into thin slices and drying it, Chris tried smoking. As a result, what was not eaten in a few days spoiled and went to the wolves.

In August, he tried to return to Anchorage. With difficulty, he made his way through swamps and beaver dams, and upon reaching Teklanika, found that the river, calm in spring, turned into a roaring stream in the summer, and there was no way to cross it.

There was a return to the bus. By the end of the summer, wild potato tubers were already too hard to eat, and he began to eat pods with no nutritional value. The availability of wild game had also decreased. Chris soon died of starvation. After the film was released, the bus became an icon for crowds of teenagers worldwide.

They come to bow to the dead idol, about whom they know nothing. A little later, a video of the evacuation of the ill-fated bus appeared on the cnn network.

Perhaps it was an attempt to stop immature romantics. Although who Christopher himself was, remains a mystery. There is only one conclusion: we can run away from extremes that kill until the extremes reach us.


More about movies, you can read here.

The Greatest: Margaret Keane and “Big Eyes”

Photos: MovieStillsDB

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