Tag Archives: Brian Dieker

Happiness is only real when it’s shared – Into the wild

Happiness is only real when it’s shared. Well, in the long-term many of us might agree, but Christopher McCandless didn’t and so his journey to Alsaka began. This film is a moving account of McCandless’s journey — if you will excuse the pun — into the wild.

McCandless was an American wanderer who died near Denali National Park in August 1992 after hiking alone into the Alaskan wilderness with little food or equipment. Author Jon Krakauer wrote a book about his life, Into the Wild, which was published in 1996.

You’re likely to feel two things about McCandless; that he is courageous in his venture into the unknown — a tragic hero — and that he was an utter fool, who was deluded by his own idealism and through his own naivity, fails to see that not everyone’s lives, love and marriages turns out like that of his parents.

After witnessing his mother and father’s tumultuous relationship McCandless repels a middle class upbringing. On graduating he almost immediately dismisses the predictable middle class job and lifestyle and gives away his $24,000 savings to charity.

McCandless feels the only way to be happy is to be alone and to do as he pleases discovering new things. Travelling under the name of Alex Supertramp, MCandless craves what he calls “freedom”, but it seems he is looking for freedom from emotion rather than the physical feeling of simply wanting to do what he wants.

Into the wild & Chris Mccandless

Into the wild & Chris Mccandless

Ironically, in his quest to avoid emotional attachment, MCCandless forges some strong relationships with people who deeply care for him. The film moves at a fairly decent pace, moving from the present adventure in Alaska to other parts of McCandless’ journey through the US during the previous 18 months or so.


It holds interest and as I knew nothing about McCandless, the ending did come as a bit of a shock, which for me gave it an added impact. Perhaps I am myself naïve to think that he would make it through?

I also found the film in a sense unnerving and almost uncomfortable as I would detest to be so detached from society. I can’t bear more than a few hours alone in my little house in Clapham, let alone months on end in the depths of the wilderness with nothing better than a grizzly bear for company.

There is no doubt that the film makes you ask questions about life, happiness and freedom. What is freedom? I guess it depends on who you are, what you want from life and your life experiences.

Sean Penn’s story of Chris Mccandless

Director Sean Penn’s poetic retelling of the noble journey of Chris McCandless relies a lot on the faith of its audience. McCandless (Emile Hirsch) was a university graduate who completed his studies merely to fulfil a conventional path – to end a chapter of his life which had become increasingly meaningless to him.

He then shrugged off the conformities of a society he deplored to live alone, traveling in whichever direction the wind blew him, but ending in the stark and confining wilderness of Alaska.

Donating his savings account to charity, burning his cash and adopting the unlikely moniker of ‘Alexander Supertramp’, McCandless cut all ties with his parents and sister, leaving behind not a clue as to where his calling might take him.

Assuming this new identity, he simply sought to embrace the transparency of living life without need or desire for material possessions and the complications of relationships, saving his sense of communion for nature and a much higher power.

Penn’s film is a testament to the courage of this young man’s will, his determination to make his everyday existence a proclaimation of his beliefs. Admittedly it does, at times, also feel as if he’s attributing McCandless the grace of a martyr, a man who sits above others in a purer state.

Pleading to the spiritual conflict in us all, he enwraps this tortured young man with an extended, though perhaps false, awareness of the universe – one defined more by its rugged and raw challenges and watched over by an all-encompassing God whose whims can affect the outcome of our lives at any time.

Into the Wild

Into the Wild

Penn’s brilliant direction certainly makes a persuasive case for healing in this acknowledgment of a higher power whilst employing the startlingly brilliant cinematography of Frenchman Eric Gautier, and the acoustic score of Michael Brook which is seamlessly supported by some decent original songs from Eddie Vedder.

he use of voiceover casts a dreamy, unnatural light over the journey of McCandless, but at the same time provides some of the most pointed revelations, probing into his psyche and examining the possible impetus powering his radical odyssey into the unknown.


I especially liked the narration of sister Carine (Jena Malone), who objectively relays the deteriorating circumstances back home in the wake of Chris’s strange and sudden absence, the ripple effect creates, and insights into the turbulence that has defined this family beneath its facade of normality, including the overbearing, abusive betrayal of trust by their parents, Walt (William Hurt) and Billie (Marcia Gay Harden), who still cling to each other in hatred, battering one another for answers that will never reveal themselves.

Christopher McCandless

Christopher McCandless

Penn’s screenplay, in adapting Jon Krakauer’s book, helps enrich the narrative with the interesting characters Alex meets on his travels. Especially noteworthy are Catherine Keener and Brian Dierker as former hippies whose relationship has weathered some brutal storms of its own, and Kristen Stewart as a singer and underage, potential love interest for Alex.

Best of all, there’s Hal Holbrook as Ron Franz, a broken down old man whose own ties to the world have faded rather than been severed, and who sees the vestige of a possible surrogate son in Alex, a last remaining hope to carry his name onward beyond his imminent death.

The pair forms an unlikely but immediate bond in their limited time together before Alex sets off with a promise to consider Mr. Franz’s heartbreaking proposal; their last scene is one of the best in the film and possibly the reason why Holbrook was nominated for an Oscar aged 82, the oldest ever to receive such an honour.