Some books are fun to read and some movies are fun to watch. A few leave a profound impression and stay with you. Into the Wild, a book by Jon Krakauer, is such a book. Recently the book was made into a movie by Sean Penn. With many movies made from books you feel that they don’t deliver quite the same intensity that you felt when you read the book. I feel that not only did the movie Into the Wild manage to do so; it also managed to use the medium to enhance the intensity delivered by the book. This is one of those cases where the cliché “a picture is worth a thousand words” is adequate.
Into the Wild tells the story of Chris McCandless, who went into the Alaskan wilderness in April 1992 at the age of 24, and never came back. Chris was born exactly three years before me, and it feels so sad that he passed away at such a young age.
After finishing college, Chris donated all of his savings to charity, left his family with no notice, and for two years traveled with the goal of ultimately getting into Alaska and living off the land. I’m sure I’m not the only one who fantasizes about leaving the existing reality with all of its complexities and disappearing in the wilderness. It is a fantasy, and in most cases where people actually try it, things don’t turn out well, as was the case with Chris. His story was tragic not only because he didn’t manage to return, but also because he chose to detach himself from his family.
The book and the movie left a deep impression on me and on my wife, who had trouble sleeping afterwards. The story is not easy, and I must say it feels unfair to Chris’s family and to him that we kind of intrude into their lives and privacy. But I think that it is important that both parents and children know of Chris’s story. After watching the movie and reading the book I felt the need to spend more time with my parents. Also, I feel that it is impossible for people who love the wild not to appreciate the story, or at least to ignore it.