Jerry Zhao | 10.03
Into the Wild Essay
Essay Question: How are stylistic features and film techniques used by the director to shape your understanding of the central ideas of the text?
Into the Wild (2007), directed by Sean Penn is a film adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction novel of the same name. It tells the true story of Christopher McCandless and his travels throughout North America. Christopher’s desire to escape from the materialistic society of late 1980s led him to the wild, where he had many experiences that are captured within the film. Penn explores the central ideas of Into the Wild through stylistic features. This includes the usage of mise-en-scene to demonstrate the confinement paired with identity, intertextuality to show the fulfilling quality of nature, as well as cinematography to showcase that stubbornness and ignorance results in poor outcomes.
Throughout the film, Penn uses mise-en-scene to present how identity can confine one’s actions. Christopher McCandless lived under two different identities; one as Christopher McCandless, a life tied to his family, friends and society’s expectations and the other as Alexander Supertramp, a free-willed, independent adventurer. As Christopher McCandless, he felt society was a poison limiting his life. Fed up with this ‘cage’ he was living in, Christopher changes his name to Alexander Supertramp. Penn’s usage of transitioning identities and acting styles shows that with no old relationships, rules or responsibilities, Alexander was able to live out his life freely, which contrasts the life he led under society as Christopher. Penn further supports this idea through the conversation between Ron and Alexander, where Ron offers to adopt Alexander. Alexander knows that if he accepts Ron’s offer, his name would once again change. Considering this Alexander declines, “How about we talk about this when I get back from Alaska”, knowing the pressures that come with an identity tied to another. These scenes of Christopher's actions suggest that once he rid himself of the pressures and expectations that came with the name ‘Christopher Mccandless’ he was able to live his life purely based on his own ideals and motives.
Through the use of intertextuality, Penn implies nature’s ability to fulfil our inner desires. Many allusions to literary texts within Into the Wild reference the beauty of nature and its relation to mankind. Throughout the film, quotes are embedded within Christopher’s dialogue demonstrating his shared opinion of the beauty of nature and romanticism of complete freedom, leading the audience to understand why the ‘wild’ was his ideal destination away from society. Penn uses non-diegetic voice over, being Christopher’s narration, to provide reason for Christopher’s journey in the wild, one being freedom, "It should not be denied that being footloose has always exhilarated us. It is associated in our minds with escape from history and oppression and law and irksome obligations....