Monday, March 31, 2008

Into the Wild

I really loved Chris' journey in this movie from arrogant isolationism towards the need for relationships. I imagine I probably felt a bit different than many about his trip into the woods: I didn't find it all that romantic or adventurous but really that of a pretty arrogant coward (like many of us often are) running into the wild to avoid dealing with the pain and broken relations in his life (particularly with his parents) in a more redemptive way. One of the things I liked about the film is that it didn't seem to have an over-idealized sense of nature: even before the brutal end. Chris seemed aware of its violence and raw power even from early on in the movie; though at times he seemed to exhibit an overidealized sense of a "peaceful creation" that drew him into the woods, he more often seemed driven by a fearless entering into its sheer raw power (the "rapids" scene seemed another poignant example of this). I thought in this sense the film (and Chris' life) was powerful in capturing the tension between both the beauty and peacefulness of creation as created good by God on the one hand, and its violent sheer raw power under the weight of the Fall on the other. These two both seem to exist in dynamic tension today and I thought the movie captured them well.
But the deeper sub-text of the film seemed to me to be the relational one: his wounds from his family and the pain of a sin-scarred world (ie. his classes on Apartheid and food crises in Africa) drive him away from all people. The Alaska trip seems to be so idealized because it is the final Westward expansion, alone in uncharted territory, away from all people towards the power of isolation in nature. It reminded me of Lewis' Great Divorce image where hell is everyone trying to move farther and farther away from each other because of the ways they've been hurt by others and their assurances that they are "right" about the world. Though for Chris of course, he would identify more with Sartre's opposite picture of hell in No Exit where "Hell is other people" and salvation is in isolation.
As Chris pursues his "freedom" (re: salvation) through his trip into isolation I felt like God was moving through a number of characters in his life to try and pull him back into the human web of relationships: Wayne (Vince Vaughn), the hippie couple, the "love interest" and ultimately the elderly gentleman. One of the things I found so beautiful was that none of these people were perfect (like his parents weren't perfect)--Wayne was a convict, the hippie couple had a troubled relationship and an estranged child of their own, the love interest was too young, and the elderly man was timid towards life--yet in their imperfection they extended to him invitation to join their imperfect web of relationships (a beautiful image for me of church community?) I thought one of the most powerful scenes was the elderly gentleman desiring to adopt him just before he left into the wild. This seemed like one of the most "God moments" in the film, the man almost an image of God's voice desiring to adopt him as His child into His family.
But the biggest "God moment" to me was the "Happiness only real when shared". This seems to be the point in Chris' life of repentance / transformation: where the Nature and Isolation he has sought his salvation / freedom through has now turned on him to kill him, and he realizes the necessity and need of relationship--even imperfect broken ones--and reconciliation / grace towards this broken world's people. That's what's so beautiful to me about the final scene. As he dies, he is now truly free. This transformation to value that which is valuable, to "call each thing by its proper name" and return his own fractured, scarred, relationally-defined identity to himself, means he is for the first time in the film truly free even as he dies. The final line where he imagines himself embracing his parents and saying to effect "If I came into your arms would you see what I see now?" I took as a powerful proclamation that he wants this transformation and realization for his parents too but whether or not it is fulfilled in their mutual embrace he has it regardless now as he dies. As he looks up to the sky, though dying he is yet a new creature, it is as if he is seeing creation with fresh eyes for the first time.

1 comment:

Cornelia Becker Seigneur said...

I too loved this film. My daughter, 18, wanted to see it two nights in a row. There was so much we saw the second time around. I had also watched it on the big screen. What I loved was the way God was portrayed in this film. The man from Salvation Hill was a blessed soul, sweet man that was all about Love and is that not what God is about. And the other man befriended in his journey...who shared the message about needing people. The music, the scenery, the message. See it twice -
Cornelia Seigneur