Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Are You Leaving for the Country?

Kindling and I watched Sean Penn's Into the Wild on Sunday night. I didn't have especially high expectations, no doubt related to a prejudice towards the Eddie Vedder baritone-y soundtrack, but I was quite pleasantly surprised (though not by the soundtrack). The film did a good job of not overly romanticizing the views and life of its subject, Christopher McCandless. It was uplifting but as one can imagine also immensely sad, especially given that he didn't really have to die. Had he been more prepared, i.e. had a compass or a map of the region he easily could of survived.

In one particularly charming scene, McCandless (played by actor and Jeff H. look-a-like Emile Hirsch) is eating an apple and talking to it, telling it how delicious it is. At the end he looks directly into the camera and moves his head right up against the lens, smiling. I really love this non-diegetic moment in such a film, stepping outside the narrative for a moment to remind the viewer that this is just a movie about a real event, that it can't actually convey McCandless reality, but merely poetically meander within the peripheries.

Unlike McCandless, Dick Proenneke thoroughly prepared for and took seriously his decision to live alone in the Alaskan wilderness, which he did for 35 years. At the age of 51 he moved there and built a cabin by hand, all the while capturing his life in journals and with a 16mm camera, which later became the documentary Alone in the Wilderness. Simple and unsentimental, the film is captivating. The full version is an hour but this edited 10 minute version gives a great overview- (Thanks Molly for hipping me to it!)

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