an individualistic adventurer who needed isolation and healing in na-
ture. In an interview describing the process of directing and writing the
film, Penn felt drawn to the journey that Chris McCandless placed upon
himself, despite his tragic end—“Chris McCandless lived too short,
that's true, but he, in my view, put an entire life from birth to the wis-
dom of age into those years” (qtd. in Grossman para. 15).

His story and idealism had a strong effect on nearly everyone in-
volved with the film. In an interview, Emile Hirsch, who played Chris
McCandless, described the experience of filming as unique—"I think
the underlying theme about love and forgiveness and spirituality over-
whelmed any type of negativity that can sometimes go onto a film set,
and we really felt like we were making something special. That it would
mean something to people. Because it meant something to us" (qtd. in
Riley para 14).

Into the Wild was divided into chapters, the same as the book and
followed the same flashbacks of Chris’s experience alone in the Alas-
kan wilderness. The book and movie also complemented each other as
the director ensured the inclusion of the perspectives of Chris’s family,
friends and acquaintances while empathizing with the viewpoint of the
main character. Lines of dialogue were used from interviews and
Chris’s journals and letters and most of the scenes from the film were
shot on location where McCandless had traveled. The movie also
shared the final shot of the film with the last description from the book.

John Krakauer described leaving the abandoned bus where Chris
McCandless had died, from a helicopter. In the film, one of the final
shots leaves Chris McCandless’s smiling face and flies out of a window
and up into the sky, paralleling the book and symbolizing the departure
of his soul from his body.

The personality of Chris McCandless in the film was a bit different
from the book, where there was emphasis on his anger and abrasiveness
in reacting rebelliously to his parent’s admonitions that got in his way.

Into the Wild shows Chris as more relaxed and happy when he is on the
road and interacting with people he met in his travels, such as fellow
nomads and farmers. In the film he is shown as uncomfortable and an-
noyed when forced to sit at an awkward family dinner. In scenes where
he is backpacking on his own, he gets to climb trees, paddle down riv-
ers, walk deserted paths, scramble down hillsides, and when he runs
41



with wild caribou in a field in Alaska, he smiles with tears in his eyes
(Into the Wild).

To be free from a restricting home life and do as he pleased as an
independent adult must have made Chris incredibly happy and exuber-
ant. The accounts of his anger toward his family and acquaintances
were accounts of his reaction against his home life and the pressures
put on a late-twentieth-century American. He was imprisoned in a role
that he didn’t want, where he was an honors student and a high
achiever, who was obliged to make his family proud. His parents also
lived a life of hypocrisy in the name of American success. He had a
right to be angry at a system that rated material gain as more important
than personal happiness. He was also part of a highly dysfunctional
family life, where his father would routinely beat Chris's mother and
she, in turn, would refuse to acknowledge the abuse. While he was not
physically harmed he was emotionally traumatized by the actions of his
father as well as his mother’s denial of her mistreatment. His escape
from his life marked how intense, stubborn, and idealistic Chris was,
as well as how Chris’s family, friends and acquaintances could not un-
derstand or empathize with his actions.

The movie used water and shots of the sky as symbols and high-
lights for civilization, nature and Chris’s character. There were several
scenes where water was used as a personal obstacle in the narrative.

Chris’s vehicle was made inoperable by a flash flood in the desert and
he had to continue travelling on foot. This scene proved his resilience
in the face of danger and hardship. Chris also swims in the ocean to
overcome his fear of open water and reach out to another character who
is in pain. At this point he is shown as unselfish and compassionate. He
kayaks down dangerous river rapids as a further test against his fear,
and he continues a large part of his travels on the open water. Later, in
Alaska when he is all alone, he floats by himself down a river. At this
point he has embraced adventure and nature. At the final point in his
journey, spring flooding in an Alaskan river prevents him from leaving
the wilderness and he dies as a result.

The symbolism that can be taken from these scenes is Chris over-
coming his fear of nature and finding a sense of mastery and peace with
it, especially in a scene where he floats gently and smoothly down a
clear mountain river. But then water tests and threatens him, and he is
ultimately overcome by its natural power: ultimately, nature prevents
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