Monday, January 21, 2008

McCandless: Following His Trail to Danger and Joy

NVDL: I'm pretty happy to be able to post a lot more content now on 'Nature', a topic that is vital and important, especially now. Into the Wild fits perfectly and poignantly into this ethos. 2-3 years ago I wrote on this blog about the incredible story of Chris McCandless. The movie, based on Krakauer's book, has been been released. It opens at cinemas in South Africa, on Friday the 25th. I will be first in line.

From The New York Times:
There is plenty of sorrow to be found in “Into the Wild,” Sean Penn’s adaptation of the nonfiction bestseller by Jon Krakauer. The story begins with an unhappy family, proceeds through a series of encounters with the lonely and the lost, and ends in a senseless, premature death. But though the film’s structure may be tragic, its spirit is anything but. It is infused with an expansive, almost giddy sense of possibility, and it communicates a pure, unaffected delight in open spaces, fresh air and bright sunshine.

Mother Nature’s Restless Sons (September 16, 2007) VideoMore Video »
Some of this exuberance comes from Christopher Johnson McCandless, the young adventurer whose footloose life and gruesome fate were the subject of Mr. Krakauer’s book. As Mr. Penn understands him (and as he is portrayed, with unforced charm and brisk intelligence, by Emile Hirsch), Chris is at once a troubled, impulsive boy and a brave and dedicated spiritual pilgrim. He does not court danger but rather stumbles across it — thrillingly and then fatally — on the road to joy.

In letters to his friends, parts of which are scrawled across the screen in bright yellow capital letters, he revels in the simple beauty of the natural world. Adopting the pseudonym Alexander Supertramp, rejecting material possessions and human attachments, he proclaims himself an “aesthetic voyager.”

Mr. Penn serves as both his biographer and his traveling companion. After graduating from Emory University in 1990, Mr. McCandless set off on a zigzagging two-year journey that took him from South Dakota to Southern California, from the Sea of Cortez to the Alaskan wilderness, where he perished, apparently from starvation, in August 1992. “Into the Wild,” which Mr. Penn wrote and directed, follows faithfully in his footsteps, and it illuminates the young man’s personality by showing us the world as he saw it.

By A. O. SCOTT for the New York Times

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