I've seen a lot of movies in my life because my father used to be an avid fan of HBO and Star Movies while I was growing up. But when I think about it, the longest discussions about one particular movie and what it stands for has been for Sean Penn's Into The Wild. I saw it in Rishi Valley School in class 12, just a few months before I got out of the comfortable protected school environment and out into the 'big bad world' where I'd have to do my college. On every Saturday, seniors had the option of watching the main school film being shown, which were usually comedies, or to go and watch the 'alternate film' being shown, usually classics that have appreciated over the years. That Saturday, it was Into The Wild or a Tamil comedy. I'm glad I made the right choice for myself.
The film is the real life story of Christopher McCandless, who calls himself Alexander Supertramp, and his journey after college to the wilderness, leaving parents and materialism behind him in an attempt to reach out to the basic qualities of human nature and survival. Emile Hirsch does an excellent portrayal of the civilised man willingly giving up everything to try and find his roots in Nature and to feel grounded once more. As I watched the film, I remember feeling completely taken in and be in awe of the man. He died very early because he ate poisonous berries on his travels. But, the beauty of it lies in how his story makes you feel absolutely human and relate to him and desire to do what he managed to do. It explores human emotions in the simplest of ways and leaves you smiling and feeling each emotion he feels.
After watching the movie, I returned to the hostel and started writing what I felt on some of the concepts explored in the film like consumerism, human survival, man versus nature, and the like. I sat up till 2 in the morning discussing the film and hearing criticism on the man and some decisions of his portrayed in the film. I found myself strangely defending his actions very strongly. I realized then that this movie had stirred something in my mind and really left an impact. I would never be able to do what he did by living off plants and more so animals, since I am a vegetarian and will be so unless I am to survive in the unlikely occurrence of an apocalypse where me and chickens would be the only survivors. It made me understand the value of money and how essential it has become in our lives, contrary to the complete dismissal of it that it done by him.
The day after I saw the film, I started researching on the man and discovered that there was a book by Jon Krakeur, which retraced McCandless's journeys and conversations in his free spirited exploration of life. My sister bought it for me when I told her about the film and till today, she will never understand how thankful I am for it. The book makes you relate to him at an even closer level with the excerpts and quotes from the works of authors he enjoyed reading, the elongated conversations with people he met on the road, which were cut short in the film, and more so, the maps of his travels, which made you feel like a navigator yourself. For once, the film did do proper justification to the book. But neither would completely be able to do justice to the life of that man who changed me. When I think of Into the Wild, I feel happy and free and sense a rising desire to explore and understand everything.
Christopher McCandless, May your soul rest in peace.