Into The Wild

Hello Friends…

Just saw a movie… Or was it a film?
Before I moved to Manhattan I used to–coming from the outer rings of Queens–call everything a movie. When I got to the real Big Apple and mingled with people who had better educations than I did (most people), I discovered that some motion pictures were “films” and the rest were mere movies that Hollywood churned out for the popcorn-chomping masses.
I suppose some are both movies AND films… Goodfellas, LA Confidential, etc.

Anyway… My wife and I just saw a netflix DVD of “Into The Wild”; based on the book by Jon Krakauer. I hadn’t read the book so I didn’t have to be troubled by those nagging little comparisons that inevitably devil your mind while you’re watching the film/movie of something you first encountered in book form. Course, on the other hand, I have always had a disconcerting ability to suspend my disbelief when I needed to.
For instance, I read LA Confidential before the movie came out but I never made any comparisons while watching the movie.
I guess that happens if it?s really a good movie;when its bad, that?s all you can think about–how they screwed up the book.

Back to “Into The Wild”… It?s a beautiful and deeply sad movie/film.
I’m guessing more than a few of you read the book and/or saw the movie. Great directing, great acting, terrific story (based on a terribly real story).
A boy/young man leaves his home and family and sets out to get to the “truth”–to discover himself… This kid was lied to and his great gift of love (to simplify the story and characters) refused and twisted in angry/sad knots most of his young life… So he gave away all his privileges and money and went out onto the road; and eventually just about as far into the wilderness as a human could go…
When he finally discovers, at the very end, that “Happiness isn’t real unless it is shared,” it was too late for him… He had miscalculated the wilderness he drove himself (had been driven) into and literally could not cross a raging river to find his way back to people he loved… A great and perfect metaphor.

That’s the tragedy of the film, and the great warning… You can go too far into the wilderness sometimes. You may have been driven there or you may have been driven most of the way and continued the trajectory yourself.
If you’re lucky you discover the “truth” (the particular truth this boy discovered) in time and can turn back. If you’re unlucky and have gone too far– and the the wilderness you’ve gone into is too unforgiving, you can die out there… or IN there, for that matter; if the wilderness you were driven to or escaped into is in your mind.

It reminds me of a short, striking book by Robert Bly called “A Little Book On The Human Shadow.”
Writing about men as usual, but the premise applies to all of us, Bly says we all have a shadow behind us–a shadow made up of all the suppressed emotions and repressed fears and wants and desires we’ve had all our lives… We carry this shadow in a big sack. And as we get older and don’t let the shadow–repressed fears and angers and desires– into the light, the shadow gets bigger and longer. And finally, if and when we do let it out of the sack, it can overwhelm us.
I remember Bly warning that if you let this shadow out (or it starts to show its head even when you don’t want it to) in your fifties or older, it can shatter you or someone close to you (or both).
Same old same old– Here?s a poem by William Blake:

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe;
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I water’d it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with my smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,
And into my garden stole
When the night had veil’d the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch’d beneath the tree

Well, that?s how it goes? When you water the tree with wrath, fears, tears, fake smiles and deceit, somebody is going to wind up stretched out under the tree. Either way, you wind up being a murderer?of your own identity and/or anybody in the blast zone.
During the Spanish-American war (which bears a spooky resemblance in many ways to the current shameful debacle in Iraq), American Admiral Dewey encounterd a Spanish warship (or small fleet?I forget which exactly) and he engaged in battle. He won the fight and sent a famous cable to the war office (and maybe a copy to bloodthirty old William Randolph Hearst who ran the New York Post/Fox News-type empire of his time).
Dewey said: ?We have met the enemy and he is ours.?
Fifty years later, the great Walt Kelly put these words in the mouth of his possum sage, Pogo: ?We have the met the enemy and he is us.?

No doubt.

?Enough comparative literature and film discussion…
Did anybody else see this movie/film? And if you did, what did you think of it?

– Mike Feder (New York City – April 14, 2008)

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