The conventional wisdom regarding Sean Penn's justly acclaimed rendering of Into the Wild is that the film is "faithful" to the Jon Krakauer book. This is utterly cracked, and the misconception is illustrative of my staunch "books are not movies" philosophy. Not only is Into the Wild not "faithful" to the book, but it couldn't possibly have been faithful and remain a narrative film. Sure, it dutifully replicates what Krakauer was able to discover about Chris McCandless' adventure – most of the supporting characters, destinations and events are here, and some lines of dialogue are lifted from Krakauer's account. If that's all it takes for a movie to be "faithful," then I guess it's faithful. But that ignores the fact that the book and the film were trying to accomplish fundamentally different things, and went about it in fundamentally different ways.

Krakauer's book – which, by the way, is a national treasure – is first journalistic, and then philosophical. The author did painstaking research to piece together the details of McCandless' journey and death from interviews, personal observations, and Chris's own writings. What emerged probably wasn't what Krakauer, who obviously sympathizes and identifies with his hero, would have preferred: the picture of McCandless his sources paint is that of a young man who is bright and curious, but also inconsiderate, arrogant, and often downright unpleasant. (The letter he wrote to "Ron Franz," Hal Holbrook's character in the film, haranguing the octogenarian to sell his possessions and go on the road, is painful to read.)
categories Features, Cinematical