Before watching an adaptation I always try and read the book first. There are just some things that don’t translate well into film and reading the book first gives me an advantage. There is always so much more to gain from it , more detail, more description. We get to know characters inside out. In film that’s difficult. There isn’t enough time to drip feed every bit of information. Instead the viewer has to pick up on hints and indicators to a characters past or motivations. Reading the book adds to my enjoyment of the film. I love making comparisons and adding the bits between scenes where sometimes large chunks of the story have been cut out. Basically I like to know everything.
I cant remember which came first for me. The book or the film of Into the wild. What I am certain about is I loved both. It appealed to me firstly, and before knowing anything about it, because Sean Penn directed it. Then once I heard the premise I knew I had to see it. It appealed to me on so many levels.
Upon graduating, Chris McCandless heads out onto the open road, abandoning his family, possessions, and the trappings of the modern world. Heading for Alaska on a journey to self-discovery he meets some genuine heart-warming characters along the way who inevitably help shape each other. All this is set before a spectacular, breathtaking back-drop as McCandless travels through America, Canada, and out into the Alaskan wilderness, sleeping under the stars with little more than a bag of rice, some books and a rifle for hunting his food. But he is unprepared and unequipped. Finding himself trapped he if forced to stay where he is. Poisoned and growing weaker, it is here he learns his greatest lesson and realises the value of those around him. That “Happiness only real when shared”.
I had high expectations for this film and they were far excelled. It romanticises the role of a traveller. Free spirited, not a care in the world and nothing but them and the open road, full of breath taking scenery and life changing experiences. It made me want to pack a bag and leave. Which I did not long after. Although it wasn’t quite so spontaneous. My flight had been booked for months and it was a three month holiday travelling round Australia in Hostels, Hotels and visiting a few relatives on the way. No sleeping under the stars for me. And certainly no hunting for my own food. But it was an incredible trip all the same.
Although I loved both the book and film, I saw them as two very separate things. What I got from each of them was very different. The book had a lot more in it, not only focusing on the journey of Chris McCandless and the lives of those who influenced him but also the adrenaline packed life of the author Jon Krakauer . Had the film taken on more, it’s warmth could easily have been swallowed up trying to explain so much. But Sean Penn delivers a beautifully executed film with complex characters given through some remarkable performances. Most notably Emile Hirsch gives an intense performance as Chris McCandless, capturing the essence of such a free spirited character who’s captivating presence easily holds the scene, and majority of the film alone as we see this character grow and discover himself. The film has a high calibre of actors who’s talents are exhibited best through their interactions with one another. The scenes between Hirsch and Hal Holbrook are heart warming, sad and yet enjoyable. Franz (Holbrook) is the father McCandless needs and he is the son Franz wants. And you cant help but want that for them both. This is where I’m glad I read the book because the relationship between them ends here and in the book Franz life is changed dramatically after this. There is life after Chris McCandless and its nice to read what happens to these characters, these very real people, after their encounters with McCandless.
Its a beautifully shot film that’s well executed with a great cast, and I cant say anything negative about it. As for the book, its one I read over and over, getting a little more from it each time. This is a story with a lot to give, and a dozen films could be made from it and its complex, interesting characters each on their own journey. I enjoyed both thoroughly and recommend them to anyone.