Tuesday, October 2, 2007

"Into the Wild"

Small wonder that Christopher McCandless, the central character in the Sean Penn-directed movie, Into the Wild was afraid of water: from an elemental point of view, he was all fire. Unable to put down roots anywhere, he darted from place to place, infectiously re-lighting the fire in everyone he met--and unable to tame his own suffiicently to avoid being consumed by it. In the end, he was done in not only by water, as the river in spate prevented his return from "the wild"; but also, as fire inevitably is, by the absence of fuel to continue along his path. He died of starvation.

Seen from this elemental point of view, "Into the Wild" was a powerful and majestic film. The earth figured prominently in the form of the great mountains of Alaska,

the Southern California desert, the roads that led in all directions, predominantly north and south. There was water in plenty: the ocean where Chris learned to overcome his fear of water and passed his fire on to a woman whose passion had died; the rain and snow; the raging rivers, including the one he was unable to cross, the one that caused his eventual isolation and death. The air, the great, wide open skies that stretched above him everywhere, the air that fed the fire that consumed him. And the fire, chiefly within, where it raged, in contrast to those small campfires, match glows, embers, that stood in for the element in the outer world.

A wonderful movie, I thought. Just a little bit longer than it needed to be, as though the director feared we might not get it, and risked boring us in order to be sure we got the point... Well worth the time. It's a movie one could see again, just to be overwhelmed, again, by the power of the elements.


Fred said...

Peter, thank you for your brilliant review of a film that knocked me over. The elemental reference is right on the money, and did not occur to me before reading your essay.

Fond regards

robin andrea said...

I had not heard of this film before your review. It does sound interesting, compelling, and overwhelming in the way that nature can sometimes be. Did you ever see Jeremiah Johnson, way back in the early 70s? I remember being struck by how the natural environment was a presence like a magnificent co-star.

PeterAtLarge said...

Oh, yes, Robin. "Jeremiah Johnson" is one of my all-time favorite movies. With Wil Geer, and his "grizz..." And that marvelous, long-lasting, elemental feud between Johnson and his Indian nemesis. Such a great picture! Time to rent it for a re-run, I think. Cheers, Peter