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Into the Wild

June 22, 2008

Into the WildJosh loved Jon Krakaur’s book, Into the Wild and so he was excited to discover it was being made into a film, directed by Sean Penn. I knew the story only from Josh’s retelling of it, and I too was intrigued.

We watched the movie last night and it was amazing. I was curious as to how this true-life story could be successfully told in an engaging way through the medium of film. The story is about a gifted and affluent young man, Chris McCandless, who has just graduated from Emory University in Atlanta in 1992. Seemingly motivated by a hatred for the sick aspects of society and an idealized world view, he gives all his money to charity and starts a journey to discover truth. He meets some interesting characters along the way and ends up in Alaska to live off the land and be one with nature in a Thoreau-like way. We also discover he’s running from something deeper and darker in his past. The reason he searches for truth seems to stem from the destruction that was caused by lies his father has told him. He runs because he is bitter and is unable to forgive. He turns his back on all he knows and who he was, most clearly signified by the changing of his name.

Sean Penn’s adaptation is spectacular. Slow moving, this film is to be savored like a good read. Penn uses techniques that force the viewer to stop and savor the moment with Chris. Penn attempts to show us what Chris sees, how he feels. The exuberance of the ocean, the feeling of a clean shower. It’s like poetry in visual form.

The heartbreaking and ironic ending is a reminder to us all that earthly happiness is meaningless unless shared with others. Also, that how we treat and interact with our children has lasting effects. Chris’ sister makes an insightful statement that while her parents protected and cherished their crystal, they failed to realize that their children were just as fragile.

The film is rated R for a smattering of bad language and images of nudists in a couple scenes.

If you’ve seen this film, I’d love to know what you thought . . .

7 Comments leave one →
  1. zoanna permalink
    June 22, 2008 10:01 pm

    I’ve wanted to see this movie for awhile ever since seeing the main character interviewed on TV (Dr. Phil, maybe?). Maybe I’ll rent it while Paul’s in Iowa this week. Thanks for the review.

  2. June 23, 2008 4:42 am

    A coworker recommended this movie and lent it to me a while back but we haven’t had an opportunity to watch it yet. I’m always a little leery of coworker recommendations anyway, but having read yours, maybe we will pull it out next weekend. I’ll let you know!

  3. June 23, 2008 5:57 am

    I’m glad you mentioned it; I wanted to see it a while ago when I saw an interview w/ Sean Penn about it. We’ll have to see when it becomes available at the library.

  4. June 24, 2008 1:55 pm

    I don’t know much about it other then some comments a friend who did see it a while ago said to me.

    When I questioned her about the nudity, it wasn’t a big deal to her.

    Based on your review it isn’t either. But should it be? I don’t know. I’m inclined to think I shouldn’t watch it. But the view my friends had was that it is art.

    The whole nudity in art is something I struggle with. I think on one hand that nudity in art isn’t appropriate. We should give honor to our bodies as we are created in God’s image. On the other hand, this same argument could be made for seeing some nudity in art.

    We were nude before the fall. But, we are living in a post-fall world.


    (Like I said, I inclined to think I shouldn’t watch it because I can’t settle the arguments in my mind. I couldn’t watch it in clear conscience.)

  5. June 24, 2008 3:03 pm

    Ah, here’s a potentially inflammatory discussion!

    I think everyone has to come to their own conclusions/convictions on this topic. It’s a gray area. I think for Christians we can find biblical principles in the Bible, but it’s not completely black and white. Some will disagree, I’m sure. I think if it’s something you struggle with, than that’s something to take into consideration.

    In the instance of this movie in particular, there’s two scenes involved. One is very brief (you hardly see anything) one is more extended and basically the main character comes across a European couple and the woman is topless and he interacts with them for a while before paddling down the river. It could easily be fast-forwarded, or maybe you don’t want to support films that have nudity in them at all. I don’t know.

    As far as nudity in art goes, it depends for me. First, as an artist, I took figure drawing and that included drawing from a live, nude model. The class was great and nothing was improper about it. We learned about the human body to a great degree before even having a model. That included having students draw the human skeleton and muscles in detail, as well as memorize all major bones and muscles. The idea was to start from the inside out, so we understood how the body moved and was formed. So you start with bone, then muscle, then skin, and towards the end the models wore clothes. I had no problem with the class personally, although I admit to feeling a bit uncomfortable at first! But the teacher, models, and students were all professional about it. And my drawing improved greatly!

    Secondly, viewing nudity in art. I think there’s a difference between nudity and pornographic material. Big difference. However, just because it’s “art” doesn’t make it NOT pornographic. So you have to be critical. If you look back at classical art, where many of the representations are nude, you have to understand the reasons behind it. The body has, in traditional and classical art, always been the pinnacle of artistic representation. You were not a true or excellent artist until you could master the human body. Hence so many Greek nude sculptures and 19th C. paintings containing nudes! For instance, if you wanted to be an artist in 19th C. France, you’d go to Académie des Beaux-Arts and you can be sure you’d be studying nudes at some point. It was just the way formal training happened. Or you could rebel and become an Impressionist and paint landscapes! 🙂

    Anyway, all good things to think about. Obviously, people have to take their own stances on stuff.

    I read a great quote recently by a Christian writer who said this, in regards to his standards of writing real world stuff with real characters while not violating his own standards that are formed from a Biblical world view. He says:

    “I think the Bible gives us the freedom to do that [depict the real world], because – this may shock you to hear this, but the Bible is an R-rated book. If you filmed it from beginning to end, it would make an R-rated movie, and there are parts you would not show your kids, and that’s because I think the Bible is dealing with a real, fallen world in all of its depravity. The Bible is not naïve or simplistic, and I don’t think we can be, either. This is a seriously fallen world, and if we’re going to talk to it, we’re going to have to address the fallen parts of it. . . . Unfortunately, sometimes in the Christian world, books, movies, are evaluated by what’s not in them. You’ll love this book because there’s no cussing in it. Well, you know, it’s hard to make a good book out of what’s not in it. You eventually have to get around to what is in it. . .”

    So this quote illuminates the kind of tension Christians may feel. Whether in fine art, writing, or film the tension can be the same. I think excellence has less to do about what’s not in it and more to do with what’s in it. Some “Christian” writing, music, and art is not excellent because it’s badly done, so I don’t think that’s glorifying to God at all! To me, this was an excellent movie. It was created with creative excellence. It was thought-provoking and and brought some excellent questions to my mind. I actually thought about some of the issues for days. Chris’ issue with bitterness and unforgiveness towards his father hit home to me. That being said, almost any film/book can have some good quality, and I’m not saying that just because it might have some good quality we should wade through tons of depravity to get there. But not every good book/movie/picture has to be squeaky clean either, because that’s not the world we live in. I think it’s more about how the content is handled. What’s the world view behind it? What’s the message?

    So anyway, that’s my two cents!

  6. June 26, 2008 10:41 am

    Thanks for the thoughts.

    Maybe I’ll just read the book.

    I liked your comment and questions at the end — about it being the world we live in.

    I can’t help but to think that we are called to be in the world, but not of it. But, once again, what does that mean in this case?

    I think it depends on personal convictions — somethings that will stumble one will not stumble another and vice versa.

    Great thoughts though.

    This movie (when I discussed it with a friend) brought up more thoughts. We also discussed how a woman might view it differently then a man. What might be art to us (as women) might not be helpful to a man.

    And is it okay to view in mixed company? Should we be comfortable viewing nudity with other men — married or single?

    For me — as of now — there are too many questions unanswered. Like I said, I think I will just add the book to my wish list and call it a day.

    Thanks for all your comments!

  7. June 26, 2008 5:38 pm

    I think these are all good questions. I think a lot of them depend on the situation, convictions of all involved, what you mean as “view” (art vs. film, etc). All good things to consider. It’s the same kind of thing when you consider alcohol. Some Christians would say it’s never right to drink it, others would disagree. Would I drink alcohol around an alcoholic? No. Would I have a glass of wine with my husband? Yes. Anyway, hope you enjoy the book if you read it. The book is usually always better than the film, anyway! 🙂

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