“Into the Wild”

 into the wild

A.O. Scott, one of my favorite movie critics, really loved this movie. You can see his review in the New York Times here.

Scott is one hell of a movie geek, and I trust his instincts. However–as readers of the ASLE listserv know–I have my reservations about the story of Chris McCandless, and so do many of my students. I think there is something cranky and conservative about our feeling that McCandless should’ve had more respect for the way the world can kill you, but I still feel that way. It’s good that not everyone feels that way, and it’s also good that not everyone dies in young adulthood, alone in an Alaskan forest. Nonfungible goods, these are, and probably incommensurable, too.

I haven’t seen this movie, but my current crop of students wants to see it, so maybe I’ll go with them. In the meantime, I would be interested to hear from others about their experience of the movie and the book.


4 thoughts on ““Into the Wild””

  1. I’ve followed the Into The Wild discussion with a great deal of interest though I haven’t really jumped in. Reading this post made me think about James Hillman and the idea of the senex mind vs puere mind. I agree there’s something “cranky and conservative” with all this talk of respect and responsibility and maps and plans and understanding. What I’ve seen of the film (what was posted on the Times site) really makes it clear how young and open Chris is to the world. I admire him for that. It also makes me sad he had to die. I’ll check back in with something when I’ve actually seen the film. — JLane

  2. This movie got under my skin in a big way. I wrote about it twice on my hiking blog after having seen it.

    Initial reaction:


    The guy’s admirable quest for freedom clashing with the reality that he died needlessly is a great story because these are difficult points to reconcile.

    As one commenter on my blog said: he didn’t have to die to prove his point.

  3. I think that some of the impatience provoked by this story in myself and my students comes from the underlying sense of entitlement: McCandless has to go into the wilderness to find the transcendence of risk because he is so privileged in the first place. He is safely upper middle class, and he has parents to reject. Not all cultures in the United States see the rejection of family–and the surrogates he rejects after he rejects his actual family–as a virtue, even in the name of enlightenment. When your life is at risk on a daily basis because of where you live and who you are, the story of someone throwing away his privileges may not be so compelling.

  4. Well, I saw the film Friday night. I have to admit I don’t have anything deep to say about it, only that I loved it. Little things: I was stunned when an entire Sharon Olds poem was recited on screen early on. (When else has that happened in an American film?) And a whole paragraph of Tolstoy on screen? (When was the last time “text” was a minor character in any film?) I thought the animal moments were wonderful– the gulls in the waves, the birds in the sky, the caribou, the fly-blown moose, even the sniffing grizzly, all those “more-than-human-world” moments.

    And on a personal level, I loved every moment of the film in which I saw my own idealistic wasted youth spattered across the screen in vivid colors. (Hello, my name is John and I too wanted at 22 to walk “into the wild” and act like I had no past or future.”) I’m glad I didn’t walk quite that far. I’m glad I didn’t end up in that bus in Alaska. But I think I could have. I like it when a film shows another possible me that I somehow by-passed. I was inches away a dozen times from being Chris. But I never went that far “into the wild.” Doesn’t everybody have that? Walking out of the theater I told my wife, “You know what kept me from ending up in that bus in Alaska?” Before I could answer my own question she said, “You loved your mama too much to go that far.” Betsy says the film is about family– not wildness. I’ll have to think about that.

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