Into The Wild (2007)

Into-the-Wild

McCandless was a self-serving fool, and the narrative suffers because of this.

This film was recommended to me by a couple of friends, I was looking forward to it, it had an interesting premise on face value, but by not even half-way through, the film had lost its appeal for me purely because of the ostensibly ‘inspirational’ material it was based on.

The film, directed by Sean Penn, follows Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), a young, idealistic university graduate who yearns to leave modern civilisation and live off the land like some sort of noble savage.

I have backpacked around Europe and South East Asia, I wholeheartedly understand the appeal of travelling for extended periods of time and living out of a rucksack. I also, like many others I’m sure, can empathise with McCandless’s contempt for the expectations, uncertainty and pressure of young adulthood. But, quite frankly, McCandless was a selfish fool who lost all sense of rationality whilst making a grand statement about civilised society. He left his only sister with their emotionally distant, shallow and contentious parents to pursue his ill-fated adventure totally unprepared. So unfortunately, I couldn’t see past the lead character’s naivety and self importance.

But despite this, I did find myself compelled to watch McCandless’s interaction with the film’s supporting cast; the hippies, old man Ron Hanz (Hal Holbrook) and dare I say it even Kristen Stewart’s role were infinitely more interesting than McCandless’s ‘inspiring’ mission. To think some viewers find his story ‘inspirational’ shows entertainingly poor judgement, they can’t have seen the whole film! Again, I stress that this film isn’t bad film making, it features good performances from the whole cast and some good emotive interplay between them, but it is all set within the context of the lead character’s idiotic escapade, a fundamental aspect which I cannot bypass.

It’s a shame that McCandless has been immortalised for being so reckless.

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Grizzly Man (2005)

Timothy Treadwell

‘Grizzly Man’ is engaging and insightful, but Timothy Treadwell was just a neurotic pursuing a self-serving endeavour.

This well-crafted, insightful documentary reveals a damaged, narcissistic and complacent man who found solace in the wilds of Alaska. Contrary to what I anticipated, ‘Grizzly Man’ is first and foremost a character study; the man is discussed far more than the beasts he surrounded himself with. From the onset, I was surprised by Timothy Treadwell’s eccentric demeanour; I was even more surprised by how quixotic and naive he was. Treadwell had been both an alcoholic and drug user prior to his Alaskan adventures, and it seemed as if he was still hitting the bottle during his rambling, gushing monologues about his love for the animals and the immense passion he had for his mission of ‘protecting the bears’.

The main problem with Treadwell was that his objective was irrelevant and aimless; the bears weren’t really under any threat. Indeed, an interviewee spoke about bear culls, an activity which I admittedly didn’t see any purpose in, but these culls didn’t affect the stability of the population. Overall, Treadwell’s apparent love for bears was a self-serving endeavour; he was never going to improve the bears’ quality of life, but the bears certainly improved his.

The problem with the film is Timothy Treadwell, it’s hard to resonate with the man due to his foolishness and juvenile manner. Treadwell became increasingly conceited throughout his footage. His complacency reached its zenith in an almost comically ironic segment recorded hours before his death where he proudly stated how he had reached a point of untouchability with the bears; it summarises just how detached from reality he was. This is another of Werner Herzog’s accomplished documentaries, however it is Treadwell’s flawed, rather unlikeable personality that makes it one I won’t watch again.

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