Directed by Sean Penn, Written by Jon Krakauer (book) and Sean Penn
Screening at from 16th November
A major contradiction about this film, based on Chris McCandless –
who wanted anonymity in his overriding desire to escape from the American
rat race - is that his name and his deeds have been publicised around
the world via the bestselling book. The film of the book, which includes
a lot of literary allusions, is split into chapters written about McCandless
by Jon Krakauer.
McCandless rejected mainstream society, but that same society now portrays
him as a hero.
Another aspect which would have appalled McCandless - who died in the
wilds of Alaska in 1992 - is that director Sean Penn received total cooperation
from his family in the making of the film, even though McCandless basically
disowned them, except for his sister.
Although it is beautifully photographed by Eric Gautier (The Motorcycle
Diaries), and is a cracking story, full of the love of nature, reflection.
pathos, regret, abject loneliness, revenge and everything else which constitutes
being alive, does McCandless deserve this tribute?
In an early shot, Alexander Supertram - a name which McCandless took
on board after setting out on his quest to escape into the wilderness
- sets fire to a bunch of dollar bills, after destroying his ID card,
and yet on he picks up a cheque from a post office as payment for the
work he undertook on a farm.
He professes to love nature yet repeatedly shoots animals and birds in
cold blood in order to stay alive.
Is he totally selfish in his quest for isolation, or does he have a steely
self-belief in being able to turn his back on people who become enchanted
with him on his travels? They include the two ageing hippy travellers,
the pretty young folk singer, and in what is the most heartfelt part of
the film, the desperately lonely old man, Ron (Hal Holbrook), who asks
to adopt him in order to keep alive his family name.
I guess it is the former because he rejects them all.
McCandless had walked out of his comfortable home, leaving behind his
parents (William Hurt and Marcias Gay Harden), who had had a suspect relationship
together that deeply hurt their son, as well as his sister Carine (Jena
Highly intelligent - he was destined to go to Harvard Law School - he
also proved very resourceful in the manner in which he was able to adapt
to the often harsh climate of Alaska.
But a question arises regarding his time in this terrain - how does Krakauer
know what he did while hidden away alone in the abandoned bus in the mountains
which he used as his home?
What is Penn trying to say in the making of this film? Many theories
have been put forward, including are people still able to escape from
the ever-increasing iron grip of the materialist mentality dominant in
Whatever he is trying to comment on, Penn, despite the reservations mentioned
earlier, has made a great film. One of the best of 2007 without question.