Hollywood style, à la Sean Penn, no less. Into the Wild is a movie based on Jon Krakauer’s book written about the short life of Christopher McCandless who took to the road after graduating from college in 1990, traveling for almost two years mainly through the Southwest and even crossing into Mexico. Rejecting material possessions and conventional American Dreams, he hitchhiked and hopped freight trains. As anybody who has ever traveled for more than a few weeks and with hardly any money would know, he met plenty of sometimes wild and sometimes wonderful people, and had plenty of adventures. Enough to write a book AND make a Hollywood movie about? Probably not. What captured people’s imagination, what made Chris into a cult figure and romantic hero, is the fact that he hiked into the Alaskan wilderness ill-prepared and with few provisions, and was found dead four months later by some hunters. Apparently, he had died of starvation.
Both the book and the movie speculate that Chris accidentally poisoned himself by mistaking some seeds he ate; research that was known when Penn made the movie prooved this hypothesis to be wrong. Ron Lamothe, a documentary filmmaker born the same year as Chris McCandless, followed Chris’s footsteps and made a documentary of this journey, The Call of the Wild, which corrects some of the romanticizing inaccuracies of Krakauer’s book and Penn’s movie. I haven’t seen it, but it appears to be more aligned with the motivations that led Chris on his journey.
I don’t share the hero worship; neither do I share the contempt by rugged outdoors guys, mainly Alaskans, who think of him as an incompetent greenhorn and fool. Chris was probably a very likable young man, idealistic, choosing his own path, rejecting the ordinary. But he wasn’t wise or mature enough to look beyond his goal, to reach the mountain top and then come back down. It’s almost ironic — if he hadn’t died, he may not have become famous, but who knows, he may have been able to share something truly extraordinary.
Actually, I wanted to write about the movie because of this song I like. So, I’m finally coming to the point 🙂 : The song is called Angel from Montgomery, written by John Prine. This version is performed by John Prine.