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Christopher McCandless

Updated on October 31, 2014

Into the Wild - The Book & Film

Making Sense of Christopher McCandless

Like many people, I first heard of Christopher McCandless after stumbling across the book, Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer. I remember finding it in the travel narrative section of the bookstore when I was searching specifically for "road" novels - which happen to be an addiction of mine.

Into the Wild was unlike any such narrative I'd read before -- no wacky hijinks of Tim Cahill or Bill Bryson or the glib storytelling of Kerouac or Steinbeck. Into the Wild is about a life lost.

Even now I have mixed feelings about Christopher McCandless, the book, my reaction to the book. It feels very weird to disagree with virtually every decision that a person chooses to make and yet admire his adventurous spirit.  Sometimes I wonder how much my reaction is to Christopher himself and his story, his death and how much of it is my reaction to Krakauer's empathetic treatment of his subject.  He is certainly a great writer.

Note: For those of you coming to visit my lens as a result of my being on Lens of the Day, a hearty thank you! I appreciate all the wonderful comments that people have left and all the ratings.  You guys are awesome!

My thoughts on the film, Into the Wild

I went to see Into the Wild on opening weekend and I thought I would share my immediate reaction to seeing the film.

It is a very good movie, and by far the best (and most accessible!) film that Sean Penn has directed. Some really interesting framing too. It's interesting to me too, because many of the reviews commented that Penn is even more besotted by McCandless than Krakauer and yet I actually found him personally less sympathetic in the movie than in the book. I guess it is hearing some of the lines voiced instead of hearing them in my head that makes a difference.

The performances are all wonderful -- Emile Hirsch gives an incredibly nuanced physical performance that really makes you forget you are watching an actor play a part. The supporting cast is awesome. It's the best performance Vince Vaughn has given in awhile and it is nice to see him remember that he's also a serious dramatic actor and not just a comic buffoon.

The performance that really got to me was Catherine Keener. She's truly amazing in this movie and her reaction to Christopher and the emotions he stirs up about her relationship with her own son is heartbreaking. In many ways, she is a stand-in for both the reader and the viewer. Extremely well done and I'm surprised she wasn't nominated for Best Supporting Actress come Oscar time.


Movie Coverage from Outside magazine

I Want This Movie to Grip People in the Heart

Eleven years after the publication of Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, Sean Penn brings the unforgettable tragedy of Chris McCandless to theaters with conviction and obsession. CHRISTOPHER KEYES goes on location in California.

Fifteen years after an enigmatic 24-year-old walked Into the Wild, the site of his death has become a shrine. As Hollywood weighs in with a portrait of the young man as a saintlike visionary, has the truth been lost? Inside the strange life and tragic death of "Alexander Supertramp."

— Matthew Power - Men's Journal

Visionary or Fool?

An Opposing View from Men's Journal

The Cult of Chris McCandless

The Men's Journal article is an interesting perspective on the story of Chris McCandless and how his story has been told. The mainstream Alaskan press has long had a dim eye on McCandless and Krakauer's book about him and that's primarily the perspective shared in this story.

I do find it interesting that the author of the story chose to travel up to the Stampede Trail in Alaska to see the bus where Chris lived his final days. That tells me that regardless of where people tend to come down on his story, the reaction is strong and never neutral.

My own personal opinion is that McCandless was both a visionary and a fool. I think that's probably the position of many other fan's of Krakauer's book. In fact, I think it is nearly impossible to not have conflicting feelings about him. In the words of a traveller who left an entry in one of the notebooks inside Chris's bus: Chris may have fucked up, but he fucked up brilliantly.

Into the Wild movie trailer

Please do share your thoughts about Christopher and the movie and book. But also, be respectful. I will not approve comments that I find offensive.

Due to this page's page rank and lensrank, it gets a lot of spam comments so all comments are moderated. Rest assured, if you have something to contribute your comment will be approved. It just may take me a day or so to get to it.


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