Thursday, June 19, 2008

Into the Wild: a review

When I first saw previews for Into the Wild, I must admit I was quite skeptical. I thought it looked like a Kathmandu ad, promoting adventure holidays and the rugged romantic individualism that seeks to find in nature either a beast to be conquered, or a god to be worshipped (both goals requiring suitably sensible hiking equipment at a reasonable price).

However, having watched it last night on the recommendation of my personal film critic (isn't it great when you come to trust the judgement of certain friends and so are willing to give apparently unlikely flicks a go on their so say?), I stand corrected. Managing to criticise both the shallowness of consumerism and the destructiveness of individualism, what it offers as an alternative is grace - forgiveness, covenant and the slow healing of memory and desire through the sharing of life with others.

Based on a true story from the early 90s, the film traces the journey of a young man who renounces society and comfort and ends up living in an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness. Family and finances, career and college degree are all left behind for a battered copy of Thoreau and pair of sturdy walking boots. "Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth." On his exodus appear many potential surrogate family members, who offer companionship, understanding and love, but these are all rejected in the pursuit of purity.

Predictably, enlightenment takes a tragedy: "happiness [is] only real when shared". In this, Into the Wild echoes the best impulses of early monasticism, where flight to the desert was not to abandon one's neighbour, but to learn how to love him better.

The explicit theology of the film is good: "When you forgive, you love. And when you love, God's light shines on you." The implicit theology of the narrative is better: "When God's light shines on you, you are loved and learn to love. And when you are loved and learn to love, you are forgiven and can forgive."

Four out of five.


Stephen Thompson said...

Yes, it's a good movie isn't it. Cath and I watched it just the other night and I ended up using the trailer in our bible study. We were looking at Paul's claim to the secret of contentment in Phil 4. Having said that, it made me a little discontent - I want to go to Alaska, so beautiful!
Thanks for pointing out the link between love and forgiveness - I hadn't seen that.

Ben Myers said...

Sweet soundtrack, too.

micah said...

i was surprised to find out that salvation mountain is an actual place:

this guy is pretty amazing