Into the Wild is a 2007 biographical drama from the US directed by Sean Penn. It is a film adaptation of a novel if the same name published in 1996, which tells of the last years of Christopher McCandeless’ life and significant events of his upbringing.
My first thought post viewing is that it is a terribly sad story, made only more tragic by it being based on true events. Our protagonist has experienced a difficult childhood, full of anger towards his parents and seeks to disconnect himself from society, which he succeeds to do by burning his money and identification. By taking a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and leaving almost all his possessions behind, Christopher effectively goes off the grid.
This causes deep sadness and distress to his family, who have no way of finding their son and brother. Whilst Christopher’s parents may have caused his social detachment, his sister is a victim twice over, experiencing both their troublesome upbringing and her brothers disappearance.
Eating off the land, meeting like-minded travellers and having adventures occupy most the film as Christopher travels to his ultimate goal, Alaska. Wherever he finds happiness he is always pushed to move on by his internal belief that with wilderness comes true spiritual sanctuary.
Upon reaching Alaska Christopher takes up residence in a ‘magic bus’ which shelters him from the elements. To begin he relishes his achievement and breathes deeply as the isolation invigorates his soul. This is what he believes he has searched for. He survives reasonably well, although his weight loss is dramatic and soon his supply of rice begins to dwindle. Once his food supplies expire Christopher struggles both physically and emotionally, deciding to leave the wilderness. However, due to seasonal changes the stream he once crossed has become a raging torrent and Christopher remains trapped on the wrong side.
Like he was once trapped with his parents growing up, he is now trapped in the wilderness and begins to starve. Struggling to survive, he mistakenly eats a poisonous plant and sets on a irreversible path to self-destruction. In his final days he realises that true happiness cannot be experienced without a person to share it with. Christopher then dies alone and in pain.
The ultimate freedom Christopher yearned for was to be his demise, venturing so far into the wild that he could no longer turn back. He was free, but bound to the very primitive nature he craved.
The film is captivating and well cast, with each and every character as convincing as the last. The cinematography is beautiful, with stunning shots of vast landscapes and natural forms, encapsulating the spiritual journey of Alexander Supertramp and those he encounters along the way. A good watch.