Christopher McCandless, aka Alexander Supertramp, can teach everyone something about the way the world works. A 23 year old college graduate, infused with a sense of escape and disgust, flees every conceivable 20th century invention ensuring his existence, and embarks on a spiritual pilgrimage to be lost in the wild.
The 2007 film Into the Wild by Sean Penn, with Emile Hersch playing Chris, is a beautiful rendition of a largely true story. The film springs from a 1996 book by Jon Krakauer of the same title that I have yet to read.
As A.O Scott of the New York Times describes the film:
The story begins with an unhappy family, proceeds through a series of encounters with the lonely and the lost, and ends in a senseless, premature death. But though the film’s structure may be tragic, its spirit is anything but. It is infused with an expansive, almost giddy sense of possibility, and it communicates a pure, unaffected delight in open spaces, fresh air and bright sunshine.
The film's cinematography sets out to encourage this simple aesthetic beauty Chris saw in everything. Stocked with memorable quotes, the movie strays from the typical hallmark feel-good story when the protagonist ventures into the depths only to return a changed man. The alternate story structure suggests forgiveness, and has a huge underlying emphasis on the importance of human relationship. Chris, who denounces the joy found in relationships, is a naturally sociable person and each chapter of his life is marked by the things he learns in his footloose relationships.
All things bro aside, Chris McCandless stood to become a literary force to be reckoned with and understood more about natural human reason than anyone. Chris' story has thankfully been shared due to the immense help from the entire McCandless family. In my opinion, one of the most poignant stories of release, freedom, and understanding to ever occur.
The real Chris McCandless (circa Spring 1992)
Two years years he walks the earth. No phone, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes. Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road. Escaped from Atlanta. Thou shalt not return, 'cause "the West is the best." And now after two rambling years comes the final and greatest adventure. The climactic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude the spiritual pilgrimage. Ten days and nights of freight trains and hitchhiking bring him to the Great White North. No longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild.
- Alexander Supertramp May 1992