The biggest (of many failures) in Sean Penn’s Into the Wild is that there is no sense of moment. For a film about a character who wants to live every second, experience and appreciation everything around him, the film cannot grasp this idea. It is cheaply contained in slow motion shots, and repeated shots or motifs. Added to the MTV style editing and wipes, the shots lose all of their power in a confused state of constant movement. Even if this was the intention, a means of conveying the folly and frantic nature of youth. It still fails because the audience is so alienated, and very little suggests this is what the film wants. The viewer is put at such a distance that the memories, interactions and experiences become meaningless. Montages are used to the point of conceited disrespect for both the character and the audience, as once again the moment is drowned out in edits and over bloated “cinema-cisms”.
As someone who believes, On the Road by Jack Kerouac is the quintessential American novel, and the road itself the greatest metaphor for the American experience (at least in the twentieth century onwards). The film even fails to live up, at the bare minimum to what could easily be the film to define a generation. You may think in me saying this, my expectations were too high, but I assure you this only occurred to me once I had finished the film. The comparison to Kerouac’s novel seems obvious, and even if Into the Wild fails to be emotionally poignant, it also fails to capture not only the universality needed to capture an “American” story, but lacks entirely the frantic danger, frustration and carelessness of On the Road. It lacks heart, insight and even superficially beautiful in it’s postcard inspired sunset shots, that are brief, as they are senseless and artless.
I will however concede the film has some genuine moments of emotion, perhaps it’s coincidence or luck… but they’re there. The actors all also manage to give good performances, again though it’s a shame as Penn can’t help deifying them with one too many close-up, or again overuse of slow motion. The main thematic point (if we can assume, the one about happiness being shared is a touch to obvious to be considered the film’s main intention), is a strong one, although not necessarily put across with fervour. In our society, we ARE too quick to accept the norm, and all at once alienate ourselves from our fellow human beings (not to the literal extremes as this character) to great loss. I don’t think this is something that the director truly worked to explore though, and therefore it’s another half baked idea. Overall, I’m genuinely upset I didn’t enjoy this film more, there are even many more minor details that I didn’t get into (many unnecessary shots, what I call “the fashion magazine sequence”, bad but at least forgettable soundtrack, tonally uneven, and overuse of text, with bad fonts). I think many people will come away ADORING this film, and I just hope this isn’t a sign of quality on other films I anticipate.
Sorry for the lack of updates, I haven’t been very motivated and have been quite busy. I haven’t seen too much to report on either… mostly rewatching a few old favourites.
Also, check out 31 Days of Hitchcock at This Distracted Globe if you’re a Hitch’ fan