Into the Wild: the savage world portrayed by Sean Penn and the true story behind the movie

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Into The Wild debuted in the theatres on September 2007, and since then it became quickly a cult-movie, a hymn to escapism turned into cinema.

The film takes its inspiration from Jon Krakauer’s book of the same name, which narrates the true story of Christopher McCandless, masterfully interpreted in the film by Emile Hirsch: he was a young American guy who, in the early 90s, went into a peculiar “escape” from society, which ended with an unfortunately tragic epilogue. Sean Penn spent years convincing the boy’s family to authorize the movie, and we could assume that this time had a role in building a more mature work.

The movie is remarkable from various points of view, starting from the first thing that strikes you, especially if you were lucky to see it at the cinema: photography. The chosen locations portray the best of the American “great outdoors”, and the director manages to enhance them in the best way, accompanying the great idea of freedom and escape that is the main theme of the film. Besides this there is the soundtrack, written as a dedicated work by Eddie Vedder, inspired like in the good old days in Pearl Jam. Music and lyrics fit perfectly and they are a fundamental part of the movie, but at the same time they manage to compose an album with the same name, which can be listened and enjoyed also out of the movie logic.

But the main reason of its success, which is also the main argument of his (few) detractors, is definitely the incredible story of Alex, a tale that might seem even unbelievable, if it weren’t taken from a real story. The sense of oppression, the cold relationship with the parents and their great expectations pushed the boy, recent graduate, to escape from home, depriving himself of all his belongings, and starting an adventure “on the road” which lasted two years. He will travel through USA, living the day, doing occasional jobs and meeting the most disparate characters along the way, facing his adventure with dignity, great optimism and a bit of recklessness. All the way to the final stage, the most remote Alaska, where he arrives in the spring of 1992, finding an abandoned bus where it will pass, in total isolation of the forest, the last four months of life, before the dramatic end.

A story, a journey, which is too extreme in some situations, where it emerges in an obvious way the uncompromising philosophy of the boy and where sometimes his choices, his questionable behaviors can make the spectator unconfortable. On his side, Alex becomes an incredible metaphor of personal rebellion, and he gives life to a story so extraordinary, and so well reproduced, to excite and arouse those instincts of escapism and freedom that we all carry inside.

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Christopher McCandless
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