Chris: I’m going to Alaska.
Wayne: Alaska, Alaska? Or city Alaska?
Chris: No, man. Alaska, Alaska! I’m gonna be all the way out there, all the way fucking out there. Just on my own. You know, no fucking watch, no map, no axe, no nothing. No nothing. Just be out there. Just be out there in it. You know, big mountains, rivers, sky, game. Just be out there in it, you know? In the wild.
Wayne: In the wild.
Chris: Just wild.
Wayne: What are you doing, when we’re there? Now, you’re in the wild, what are we doing?
Chris: You’re just… you’re just living, man. You’re just there, in that moment, in that special place and time.
The bar scene in Into The Wild, the freewheeling 2007 road movie about the real-life American hermit Christopher McCandless, reveals both the charisma and shortcomings of its main character: as Chris, played with boyish charm by Emile Hirsch, tells his friend and boss Wayne about his great plans, the ambivalence of the young man’s project becomes apparent. In many ways, it seems wonderful. In others, it is clearly not thought through.
Into The Wild was adapted from the American writer and mountaineer John Krakauer’s bestselling book, and introduces us to the idealistic McCandless who, after graduating from college, abandoned his possessions, gave his life savings to charity, destroyed all his IDs and credit cards and headed off in his trashed, old Datsun B210 to live in the Alaskan wilderness. And Chris did indeed make it to Alaska, Alaska. The 24-year old American adventurer spent four months in the wild, but the never wrote the book he planned on about his experiences. Instead he died of starvation in a converted bus used as a backcountry shelter on the eastern bank of the Sushana River.
When Krakauer chronicled McCandless’ travels across North America and his fatal, last adventure in Alaska, the story struck a chord in millions of people across the world, spellbound by a young man’s rebellion against consumer society and his radical pursuit of freedom, indeed happiness. ‘What drives a man to abandon all worldly possessions and conveniences for a solitary life in the Alaskan wilderness? Could I do it, indeed should I?’ some asked themselves.
However, those questions are not as radical as they might seem. Who has not toyed with the idea of saying fuck you very much to mortgages and Monday mornings and disappearing into a simpler life under the sheltering sky? I know I have.