Into the Wild

Posted: November 22, 2011 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Action, Drama, True Story
Tags: , ,

EDIT: It should have been made clearer in the review that this movie is not for everyone. As mentioned below, there is some brief nudity that may cause some to stumble; although it is not presented in a sexually explicit situation, but rather it is shown on passing a nudist colony in the desert (depicted as a bunch of loonies). Exercise caution; we are not suggesting you should bring the kids to watch, and not only for this, but also for strong themes of death (starvation!) and more. While we do not follow the MPAA, I agree that I should have given a little more warning.

There is a rather awesome movie that not many have seen. It is Into the Wild. The screenplay is based on the book by Jon Krakauer, that seeks to account for the final months of a man’s life. Directed by Sean Penn and with a fine, fine cast, it tells the story of a recent college graduate, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), who decides to quit normal life and go live somewhat recklessly around the US while chasing a dream of a great Alaskan adventure. Yes, he did what thousands of teens dream of doing.

I recognize that many saw the trailer and thought it was simply about a whiny dude who claimed everyone was a hypocrite and wanted out. There is some of that, but the movie is much richer than that. Please, please watch the movie. Then come back here for us to talk at length (There are some crazy nudists at some point, so you must take caution and address your heart if that’s an area of weakness – close your eyes or something).

He desired to leave civilization, with its lies, its goals, its hypocrisy. He wanted nothing of the life his parents had, the set future of security and stability. He destroyed his documents, gave away his money and went on to see the country and enjoy nature; without telling his family of his whereabouts.

In his extreme attitude one sees an over-reaction to a true problem: that of people making their lives equal with their possessions. Paul warned Timothy that those who seek stability in the riches are wrong (1 Tim 6:17-19). The Bible is serious about making the riches of the world to be our source of joy and security.

There are many themes worthy of discussing in the movie, today we will deal with one. We can look at the splendorous creation and how it serves as the theater where the human drama unfolds. Stunning views from all sorts of landscapes dominate the screen and it really takes a rebel heart not to worship God.

Before I proceed, treat yourself to Eddie Vedder’s song Rise with scenes from the movie. Expect spoilers after the video.

One of the themes is the search for happiness. And therein lies the tragedy of the movie. In a series of true and delightful encounters, he bonds with very good friends. A couple living in Slab City, a man in South Dakota, a girl with a puppy who is into him (Kristen Stewart, before you know what), an elderly man who becomes almost a new father and who actually wishes to adopt him (the astonishing Hal Holbrook). Throughout the movie Chris looks for joy and meaning, while it is standing right in front of him and waving goodbye. At a certain point, Chris, sounding rather like Yoda, says, “You don’t need human relationships to be happy, God has placed it all around us. ” Well, there is a little bit of truth in it, but the saying is rather wrong. It is not an either/or situation; God made us in his image to relate to other people and to creation in fellowship under his guidance and law; no man is an island, as another poet said.

Chris eventually makes it to Alaska and begins to really live in the wild. There he has to gather food and to seek shelter in an old bus. He goes through great, and heart-breaking experiences (the hunting one is sad to no end). He loses a lot of weight and things begin to go seriously wrong. Nobody is totally sure of what happened, but at some point it seems that Chris ingested a kind of berry that slowed his digestive system to a crawl. He tried to head back to civilization but was too weak to do it. His diary annotations became more frantic and delirious. Eventually Chris dies, and it is heartbreaking to review flashes of all the good friends he left behind. Before dying he trembling wrote in his diary: “Happiness is only real when shared.” Near the end he may have realized that all the time he had what he wanted. He met happiness in many places and in many forms, yet he seemed to think it was always in the next corner and away from people. But happiness is one of the things that is better shared than when we try to keep it to ourselves. That way it rots. The Bible teaches us that God in his common grace gives joy even to unbelievers (Acts 14:17). It is to their condemnation that they fail to see it.

Like the Gospel, the joy comes in knowing that it connects, reconciles and frees us to love God, neighbor and nature. That it is better when shared, talked about, lived out, sung and enjoyed. It is not something we can hold on to and expect to go unspoiled.  Like life, like creation, like joy, like time, like yourself. Love is giving and sharing, love is imitating God’s gracious movement towards the others, even when they are undeserving hypocrites; there is joy in it. It is a gift to be given away.

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Comments
  1. Jeff Elliott says:

    Cool review!

  2. […] Into The Wild From Reel Thinking: There is a rather awesome movie that not many have seen. It is Into the Wild. The screenplay is based on the book by Jon Krakauer, that seeks to account for the final months of a man’s life. Directed by Sean Penn and with a fine, fine cast, it tells the story of a recent college graduate, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), who decides to quit normal life and go live somewhat recklessly around the US while chasing a dream of a great Alaskan adventure. […]

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