I saw this movie back in 2008 or something… and absolutely loved it. Yes, it’s tragic, but I just loved it (and so I recommend it to almost everyone– no joke). Before watching it for BRU I thought I’d see if there were any books written about him (Chris McCandless). Turns out the movie is originally based on the book, and shares its title. Yesterday i just finished reading the book, and then tonight I watched the movie. The very first time I saw this movie, I realized that it glorified this idea of going on a journey of self-discovery. But I didn’t think it glorified it any more than any other movie does… you know? If you’ve seen it, the movie doesn’t make you feel like: “Oh, yeah, that’s not very realistic….” It has a feeling of realism, but tainted with the glorification that comes with movie magic. After seeing it, I thought: “I want to do that. Yeah it would be hard, but I would love to do that.” It’s easy to rationalize a movie like this with Christian thought: for example– It would be great just to enjoy God’s beauty… I want to appreciate nature more. I want to appreciate my Creator more. I don’t want to be so materialistic. I don’t want to depend on society so much, but on God…. etc., etc., etc. But now I will say: If you watch this movie, and love it– PLEASE READ THE BOOK. It’s only like 200 pages… not super long. But please read it.
First off, the movie got quite a few things wrong. It did get a lot right, including quotes and journal entries, I was surprised at that (after reading the book). But still, it added people that never existed (i.e. the random copenhagen people….), and barely talked about other key characters. Also, the reason he died is actually wrong in the movie. I won’t give anything away, but the movie depicts what everyone ORIGINALLY thought was his cause of death. BUT further research has showed (and they talk about this in the book–written two years or so after his death) that the reason he died was not because of what the movie shows. In fact what the movie shows makes him look real stupid, when that’s not really the case. But I do love the film (mostly ’cause I like Emile Hirsch) for its simplicity and beauty with which it was filmed. I really appreciate the “indie” feel it has.
The thing the book talked about that the movie did not depict (at least not that I could really tell) was just this element of arrogance and selfishness that existed in Chris’ attitude toward his family. I don’t want to think poorly of a guy I never knew, but the book has a lot of interviews with his family and friends and everyone he met on the road (that they could find) and displays a bit of a selfishness on his part. I don’t think the idea of journeying out West, cutting off communication with everyone, and living off the land is entirely selfish. Not really. But the way in which he speaks to his sister about his parents, the way in which he held himself so apart from his family I believe hold an element of selfishness to it. He was so emotionally withdrawn from his family and I can understand that sometimes that happens, and it needs to be that way… but outside of his little sister he was emotionally withdrawn from everybody. And I think that because he did everything in the extreme this behavior really comes off a selfish (regardless of if that was his intention). Also, the book talks alot more about his relationship with his father and how he was never able to forgive his father for his actions… He held his Dad to a strict moral code, yet his heros were Tolstoy, London, and Thoreau. It seems like he judged the artists by their work, and his father by his actions. I think there’s a bit of pride in that too. On another note, the movie makes it seem like this guy really wasn’t a Christian at all…. based on the book, I don’t know that. Some of the things he wrote and said definitely made me think he could have been. Oh, and I also want to say that before he died, he left a note asking for help outside of his bus, which is just tragic. He didn’t JUST leave the final note you see at the end of the film. Some who have seen this/heard this story think this kid was out on a bit of suicide mission…. I totally disagree. I don’t think he actually wanted to die, which is what makes this story so sad.
One of the things he learns on his journeys is that “Happiness is only real when shared.” I’m not too sure what to think about that…. Initially, my gut tells me that’s true. I think I really do believe that, but when I stop and think about what that actually means, I’m not so sure I believe it. But still, I think there’s something there– I just can’t put my finger on it. I don’t think his journey was entirely one of “self-discovery” either. From the book, you get a real clear picture of him knowing who he is and being very strong-willed. His journey is painted in the light of accomplishing something he’s wanted to do… not so much to learn anything or understand himself better. It’s all about being there, and being present. And that’s something I really loved about the movie/book/whole story. Here was a guy, that for all his faults, knew how to be present. Jim Elliot says: “Live to the hilt of every situation you believe to be the will of God.” This guy knew how to do that. This movie is definitely a fight against apathy, societal norms, materialism, wastefulness, and the depreciation of human existence. Because of this, Into the Wild really resonates with something deep inside of all humans. It’s the “good” that Madeline L’Engle talks about– the good that was forgotten. There’s something about this movie that really touches that place.
The movie did have a very honest, real, truthful quote that I think explains something more eloquently than I’ve heard before: “Some people feel like they don’t deserve love. The walk away quietly into empty spaces, trying to close the gaps to the past.” I know that doesn’t seem like it has much to do with anything, but I feel it describes something that many of us grapple to describe.