23 June, 2008

Into The Wild

Had a chance to finally see this movie last night. Of course I would love it, I am a huge believer in finding yourself before all others. I had been impressed with Emile Hirsch in his role as Jay Adams in Lords of Dogtown (although I am a much bigger fan of the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys on the same story and characters). His portrayal of Christopher McCandless/Alexander Supertramp was exceptional.

I found the roles that C.M./A.S. played in the lives of complete strangers to be the most heart-tugging of everything in this movie. Here is a recent college graduate, completely fed up with his family and society and traditional roles and goals, entering into the lives of others and helping them to find themselves as he is on the road to finding himself.

One of the couples who picks him up as he's hitchhiking through California has hit a dead spot in their relationship; Jan (Catherine Keener) isn't 100% into the relationship due to her own dramas and Rainey (Brian Dierker) doesn't know what exactly to do other than watch it go down the tubes. Alex strikes up a unique friendship with Jan and helps her - without really helping her at all - to overcome some of the obstacles between her and Rainey.

And as he moves closer to his great Alaskan Adventure, Alex meets up with Ron, played by Hal Holbrook (wow did he get old!) who lost his wife and son while stationed in Okinawa in the late 50s and has not moved forward since. They grow very close, even inspiring Ron to offer to adopt Alex in lieu of having any descendants. Alex's role in Ron's life however, is merely to encourage him to move forward, travel, enjoy life and not mope in death.

Interspersed through the leading up to the adventure are scenes of Alex living the adventure: discovering and setting up "house" in an old, abandoned Fairbanks, AK public transit bus he refers to as The Magic Bus, hunting for squirrel and eventually downing a bull moose, much to his chagrin as he is too slow in skinning and preparing the meat and the flies have laid their eggs in it, ruining it (who knew hunting and killing for food required such a strict deadline?)

I'm going to spoil the movie now, if you haven't seen it and don't want to know, stop reading.


Chris McCandless/Alex Supertramp dies in his Magic Bus. If you haven't seen the movie, I'll leave the How of it as a surprise but it is based on a true story so perhaps you know already anyway.

Thing is, his death wasn't what I found to be nearly as sad as the legacy of his life and the fact that he realized that he wanted desperately to come back to The World and enjoy all the things Community can offer, all the things he experienced on his trip up to his great Alaskan Adventure but just never realized that in order to find himself, he didn't need complete and utter solitude to take solace in the good parts of being alone.

He comes to that realization awhile before the end of the movie, but Nature foils him, forces him to go back and that is his eventual undoing. Had he just taken the trip up to the point where he entered the Wild and understood all the things he learned about himself as well as others, his great Alaskan Adventure could have been more of an actual adventure and less of a man running away from the thing that keeps Mankind a viable (and dominant) species: Community. Communing with others. Being one of.

I enjoy my moments of solitude and quiet as much (possibly more - that would be the only child in me) than most but eventually I know that I won't move forward without the others around me. While he encourages Jan and Ron both to move forward and experience life, he is getting ready to leave the most important part of life behind: the other people in his life. They don't have to be parents or classmates, they can be complete strangers who fulfill that missing puzzle piece in your life or you fulfill the same in them. But to deny them all and yourself of the company and companionship that Community provides ... it may not always be fatal but it will never be harmless.


Peter Von Brown said...

Bart and I met Hal Holbrook as well as Dixie Carter. :)
And serendipity strikes again as I am researching Alaskan folklore/mythology for the book I'm writing. Before anyone gets any ideas, it's one portion of a whole...it's not all about Alaskan mythos.

Mel said...

Have you read the book? I haven't, but I've read a couple book reports about it. :)

dbz said...

P, of course you are ... it's all related

M, haven't read the book - definitely don't think I can handle it after seeing the movie ... I was going to ask how you'd gotten ahold of book reports but ... you're a teacher, that makes sense, your students are better read than I am, that's nice


Danielle Filas said...

Beautiful movie, I thought. And so so sad. I had pretty much the same reaction you did. A tragedy in the true sense: his own hubris, his own pride turns out to be his fatal flaw. But I do think it's a great reminder- I especially found it poignant as a teacher- we don't always see the seeds we sow grow... but we gotta keep planting and just have faith in the cycle.