Monday, October 22, 2007

The Chris McCandless thing..

I saw Into the Wild this weekend. It is one of the most well made, beautiful movies I have seen in a long time. However, having read the book a couple of times, the movie is incomplete. The movie does a fantastic job of expressing the passion, charisma, the innocence and pure joy Chris McCandless had for life and the free wild world, however it ignores the pitfalls of that innocence. Instead of seeing a reflection of our own youth in Chris, the movie elevates him to a Christ-like figure, which he doesn’t deserve, and does a great disservice to Mr. McCandless. If we elevate him to these heights then we are no longer on his plane, and I don’t think he’d like that any more than he’d have liked a 9 to 5 with a desk and a tie.. but then that’s Hollywood.
In the book, the story is filtered through Jon Krakauer. McCandless’s innocence and hubris are fully examined along with all of his better qualities, and the story is more full and whole. The simple steps that could have saved him are fully examined, and laid out, it gives him three dimensions, and makes him human.
There are many folks (particularly in the PNW and Alaska) that dismiss both the book and movie out of hand as “another greenhorn who goes up to Alaska to die.” They are guilty of the same hubris that killed Chris McCandless. The truth is that all of us in our passionate youth have taken an ideal too far, with mixed results. Those who survive end up whole people. Denying the inexperience of our youth is like denying that our parents had sex.. it happened at least once. Taking things too far, exploring the boundaries of our ideals is part of the process of becoming a whole person. Those who dismiss and deny them are too far gone. They have no ideals left, and that may be worse than dying.
Overall the movie is fantastic, but read the book first.

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