Next time you find yourself wandering through the Wilderness of Zin, Trekking in Timna or lost in Lahav Forest, spare a thought for young Christopher Johnson McCandless, whose dreams of tramping to Alaska foundered in 2003 when he died trapped in an abandoned bus on his way there.
He was trapped in the sense that roots he had found nearby had proven to be the ‘wrong’ roots for human consumption, and they poisoned him and weakened him so much that he was unable to hunt wild game or forage further.
This remarkable but tragic true tale was documented by writer Jon Krakauer, ‘Into The Wild’, which has now been brought to the screen by Sean Penn, who wrote the screenplay as well as directed.
Seeing the film, and having read the book a year or two ago, it reminds me of the documentary ‘Grizzly Man’ (reviewed here), which also sees a young guy, (and why is it always guys?) disillusioned with people after a difficult childhood who heads into the wilderness to commune with nature and the beasts that populate it, and also comes to a grizzly end.
“Into The Wild’ has a lot of Hollywood slick production values, and the scenery shots are stunning (as is the multi-media film website), but the essence of needing to escape, being a bit naive, but also very caring to the people he met on his travels, is conveyed well, and the anthropomorphic need to be ‘immersed in freedom’ exudes from the screen.
If there are lessons from the lives and legacies of McCandless and indeed Timothy Treadwell, then they are that we need to tread lightly but with conviction as we explore the inner and outer Alaska, and let that sense of compassion for humanity and the natural world rule at all times.
“There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is rapture in the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep sea and the music in its roar;
I love not man the less, but Nature more.”