I woke up this morning thinking about a film I’ve seen several times. The fact that I watched it twice in just the past week and find it moving up my top 10 favoriate films list may explain why it’s so central to my thinking right now. This very interesting film is Into the Wild.
Into the Wild tells a true story and delves into topics covered in the book of the same name by Jon Krakauer. Having seen it several times previously, I watched the film once by myself late last week and again with Ginny Tonic over the weekend. Ginny had been wanting to see it as she has been a fan of each of Krakauer’s previous books and particularly enjoyed this one yet hadn’t seen the film. At the end of our joint viewing, Ginny seemed genuinely moved by aspects of the story and impressed by the visual scope of the film itself.
Essentially, this is the story of a young man who walks away from life to take a personal journey. After graduating from Emory University in 1992, student/athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions and his family. He gives his savings to charity, burns the last bits of his money after his car is lost in the desert and begins hitchhiking/tramping to Alaska. There he plans to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters an amazing group of individuals that shape his life and, in the end, forms quite an engaging story of friendship, wanderlust and philosophy.
The fact that he and I are roughly the same age added a weight of relevance for me as I know where I was in my life at the same time he chose to step away. From a very young age, wanderlust was poured into my soul by my dad and in the years since that first viewing, different aspects of this film have spoken to me. I’d seen some footage of Chris’ story years ago (most likely when the movie first came out) and was fascinated. Finding the film a year later launched me into a world that challenged me all the while being both visually amazing and utterly interesting.
I’ve always been intrigued by the notion of possessions, what they really mean and what an individual truly needs in life. I think a lot of that grew out of the first time I read the book Fight Club by Chuck Palhniuk (which, of course, was eventually made into another one of my favorite movies… easily top 5). I’ve read much of what Palhniuk has written over the years and his frenetic pace of storytelling is staggering. Read Rant sometime and you will be blown away and probably just a little offended. Personally, I loved it!
Anyway, though Chris’ journey was an extreme one and I’m not a man for the wilderness, I think I understand much of what he was seeking in life and what he ultimately lost to achieve it. At times I find his character to be selfish in his personal relationships, broken by his own history but also possessing a wisdom beyond his years. Ginny explained that the book took more of a balanced look at his life and asked the reader to make their own conclusions regarding whether he was a visionary or simply someone who walked into a situation for which he wasn’t prepared. I think we both agreed the truth most likely lies somewhere in the middle.
It is a beautiful and haunting film. One that has stayed with me for a long while. The world needs a little more of that Alexander Supertamp spirit and I feel like in many ways I’ve embraced it a little this year. I’ve chosen a path a bit more uncertain; giving up the safety of permanent employment for one where I get to chart my own life. I’ve walked away from some comfort to try and build something bigger than myself. I feel proud of the fact that I took the leap.
As Christopher explains in the film, “I read somewhere how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong. to measure yourself at least once.” That is a personal journey I think I can get behind. It is safe to say, both in obvious and less obvious ways, this film made me reconsider parts of my life and for that, it means a lot to me and I encourage you to give it a try.
Into the Wild Music Video by Eddie Vedder