Friday, December 24, 2010

Into the Wild

Into the Wild; Roadmovie/ drama, USA, 2007; D: Sean Penn, S: Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, Catherine Keener, Brian H. Dierker, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart, Hal Holbrook

After graduating, the 22-year old Christopher McCandless, disgusted by civilization's rigid controls and norms, quits his entire lifestyle and leaves home without telling his parents or sister. Equipped with just a backpack, he travels by foot from California to Alaska in order to live in nature. On his way, he meets numerous individuals: a middle-aged hippie couple, a harvest farmer and a retired man, Ron. Finally in Alaska, he settles in an abandoned bus in the forest. But he has trouble finding food and accidentally eats a poisonous plant. He dies there.

Sean Penn's 4th directorial work, "Into the Wild" has some artistic value because it presents quite an unusual (true!) story, about Christopher McCandless, a young lad who was disgusted by civilization and went to live in the wilderness, without any contact with society. In portraying such an audacious story - where McCandless de facto became "Robinson Crusoe" in America's Mainland - Penn coped well with the subject, avoiding the trap of romanticizing it too much, even though it is obvious he admired his protagonist for his courage to live "free" (it is difficult to take the story as "ideal" when McCandless cuts all his credit cards, passes through a river during winter and slowly starves from hunger because the flies ruined his meat from a moose) whereas the cinematography captured some beautiful images of nature. However, the film has two big flaws: it seems too episodic and too long. The episodic feel is also apparent in "unnecessary" small scenes - it's as if the camera shot absolutely everything, and then they decided to cram it all into the film, from some cowboys standing on the street through a train passing through the railroad up to some crab walking in the sand. There are echoes of Herzog and Malick, but not with their sense to fit these images naturally into the film. Likewise, with 140 minutes of running times, the film drags slightly towards the end. Still, it is ambitious while Hal Halbrook's appearance near the end is a small delight.


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