Into the Wild

26.3.12  Well, dear brothers and sisters, the awards season is behind us and a new year stretches ahead of us full of unknown cinematic delights. And what better way to start than with a bit of controversy!

After a dinner of homemade Chinese food including homemade fortune cookies containing quotes from the film (someone’s got their eye on next year’s Idi Amin!), Comrade Love started the new MNFC year with Into The Wild, a film based on a book based on a newspaper article based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who graduated from university and decide to renounce material wealth by giving away what remained of his college fund, changing his name to Alexander Supertramp and hitchhiking to Alaska to live in the heart of nature. The film touches on different episodes on this journey and the people Chris/Alex met before he made it to Alaska, including a wonderful couple of ‘rubber tramps‘ and lovely old man who taught him leather engraving and fatherly affection. After a short break during which Jon presented us with his salty ginger nuts dipped in chocolate and smothered with ice cream, we returned to the film and more of Chris/Alex’s adventures in the wilderness including his discovery of a ‘Magic Bus’; cups of Lapsang souchong provided an authentic wood smoke smell and more than a hint of the bourgeois.


Sean Penn directed directed the film, after waiting 10 years to get the support of the McCandless family to do so, and also adapted the book himself for the screenplay. The film is beautifully shot, capturing a very innocent and almost nostalgic view of the natural world, and also peppered with quotes from authors like Jack London, Tolstoy and Henry David Thoreau whose work McCandless admired and took with him on his journey. Original songs were written and performed by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and reflected the mood of the film beautifully. Chris was played by Jack Black in a very convincing and engaging performance; he also had to lose 40 pounds and do all his own stunts. That chick from Twilight also featured, but the definite favourite was Bart the Bear.

So “where’s the controversy?” I hear you ask. Well, the post film chin-stroking was very animated and involved…disagreement! The MNFC-ers debated McCandless’s motivations, the portrayal of his actions in the film, whether he was a naive idealist or just plain foolish, inspirational or just selfish and really really annoying. These debates mirrored a wider set of arguments that have been going on since the release of the book in 1996. Reactions have ranged from this magnificently acid attack to people making pilgrimages to the bus and dedicating their lives to creating this website celebrating the life of Christopher McCandless. Personally I favoured the annoying/foolish camp, and really felt that the character of Chris/Alex as portrayed in the film did not stand up well when compared to the people he met on his journey, and as I’m the Founder my opinion get aired in the Tuesday Review! In the interests of balance however, here are some comments from one of the IMDB forums about the film that I think really capture the different attitudes:

1. Burn your money – and then use other people’s petrol.
2. You don’t need I.D. – you can always work for criminals.
3. Put your family through hell – and then decide they’re ok after all.
4. Become anonymous and use a stupid name – and then at the last minute realise that’s stupid (just like Prince)

5. Be true to yourself, live your life your way and do not simply follow the herd.
6. Inspire and be inspired.
7. Death does not symbolize failure.

8. Going into the Alaskan wilderness requires no preparation or survival knowledge.
9. In life, you’re a common hitchhiker, with no job, whom no one on this board would offer a ride. Die in the back of a bus and half of those same people will worship you and your ignorance because they ‘get’ you.
10. You get the last laugh in knowing that if you could come back from the dead, even you would readily admit you were a dumb *beep*.

11.Nobody is perfect in this world.

12. Broiled squirrel meat has no body fat and is too lean to sustain me.
13. You will probably get your ass kicked if you hobo hop a train.Read all the comments here if you so wish. You can also read the book if you ask Comrade Love nicely.

Anyway, join us next time chez Comrade Smith on the 16th April, as competition for next year’s FAFTAs hots up!

Becca xx

Rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness… give me FASCISM.

7 thoughts on “Into the Wild

  1. Hey folks

    I’m glad you enjoyed the first bit of MNFC debate! It’s interesting that 5 fairly like-minded people can have such varied opinions regarding the actions of another. Really enjoyed the chat, and Adam and I stayed up for quite some time talking about things.

    I think what was interesting is that there were essentially two facets to the post-match analysis: the film itself, and the actions of Chris McCandless. No doubt we’d have had much less to think about had it been pure fiction.

    I really liked the link to the ranting article Becca, but especially in the response quoted from Rolling Stone:

    “If you read the book and pegged Chris as a wacko narcissist who died out of arrogance and stupidity, then Penn’s film version is not for you. If, like Penn, you mourn Chris’ tragedy and his judgment errors but also exult in his journey and its spirit of moral inquiry, then this beautiful, wrenching film will take a piece out of you.”

    I certainly found myself in the second camp. And in terms of film-making alone it was beautifully shot I thought, with amazing cinematography and interesting camera angles/effects throughout.

    The other issues regarding what it means to be happy, materialism, parental blame and upbringing, and loneliness/the passage of time, certainly permate me and that’s why I like this film. It gave me much more to think about this time around than when I first saw it. Personally, and I know we disagreed about this, but I don’t think Sean Penn romantisied Chris’ journey or decisions at all, although he certainly romanitised the scenary and environment, and the spirit of adventure. His death was rawly unglamourous, the film started and ended with the anguish of his parents, and the sadness of those he abandoned along the way.

    Peter Bradshaw’s Guardian review presents perhaps a more fairly balanced opinion. I certainly agree with his closing remarks:

    “this is a serious, personal movie about what it is to be human, and what happens when we admire nature more than humanity: does it make us less than human, or do we fulfil and even transcend our humanity? There is food for thought and food for every kind of feeling in Sean Penn’s outstanding film.”

    Well, I thought it necessary to offer a line or two myself following what I thought was an interesting night, thanks for coming round.
    I couldn’t really let our exhalted leader have the last line could I comrades? Feel free to vent opinions back tho! We really need a blog eh?!

    (love the misquote by the way Becca)

    Until the next foray into fascism

    Jon xx

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