If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason, the possibility of life is destroyed.
These were the words of a young man who believed that there needn’t be a reason for you to do something that you love. If you have the drive, then nothing can stop you. And you go all the way realizing this dream without looking back. Based on Jon Krakauer’s book by the same name, Into the Wild is a 2007 American film directed by Sean Penn. It tells us the true story of a young man, Christopher Johnson Mc Candless and his adventures with life.
He abandons his old car after it is caught in a flash flood. He then hitchhikes his way into the wild after burning what remained of his dwindling cash supply. For sometimes, he works on farms but leaves that too, paddling his way to Mexico on a kayak. Followed by the police, he leaves the kayak and then travels by freight.
During his travels, he encounters many unconventional people who were intrinsically good in nature and welcomes him into their families and homes. Although Mc Candless had an opportunity to settle down with each meeting, he chooses to move on with his quest for a meaning to life, with the conviction that only the wild of Alaska will give him true knowledge. He simply refuses to contact his family.
Chris by now has a new name “Alexander Supertramp” and lives in the “Magic Bus”, which was an isolated bus he found. Although initially exhilarated by the isolation, the beauty of nature and the thrill of living off the land, life gets harder. He writes in his dairy, hunts and gathers and reads books. He slowly realizes how nature can be harsh and uncaring. He realizes that happiness is real only when shared. As his supplies run out, he is forced to eat roots and plants. Unable to distinguish an edible plant from inedible, he gets poisoned eating the wrong plant. He slowly and painfully starves to death, as he continues to document his process of self-realization and demise. Two weeks later, he dies.
The core of man’s spirit comes from new experiences. This is the line that drove Mc. Candless to the wild. A will to explore, a will to experience a new life, a real life away from the material world. I saw how this conviction that Mc. Candless carried with him remains dormant in me and many others and how we too at some point of living in this material world would like to seek and truly explore.
Watching this film, I experienced a sense of Catharsis. Although I may not have the courage to do what he did and go to the extent of his daring travels, I did feel some happiness in seeing how he went out and completely renounced his worldly life to seek something higher and supreme. The quest for true experience and knowledge is inspiring. An undying spirit that kept him going simply amazed me. His thrill and sheer fascination of nature almost unnerves you.
In solitude we find our inner selves. The time we spend on our own is when we contemplate our personalities, our deepest desires and our fears. We confront ourselves. Mc Candless does this to find himself and gets happiness out of following his free will. Eventually however, we see how he realizes nature is harsh too. It made me think how in the end our lives are entwined in a cycle of desires. There are two sides to every coin. While the grass may look greener on the other side, the other side may not after all turn out to be that green. However, one must strive to strike a balance. A balance between what you feel is you, following your heart’s desires, and also keeping in mind the people who love you, not hurting them or causing them pain because of your actions. It’s a tough equation but it’s not impossible.
Sean Penn directed the movie with great detail, bringing out subtle instances of tremendous emotional impact. Mc Candless’ character brings out sensitive issues of society, politicians and hypocrites who rule this world and make young people bitter to everything around them.
What if I were smiling and running into your arms, would you see then what I see now? - His question to his loved ones. Watch it for its sheer ability to move you and leave you wondering about the real meaning of life.