Why did the director choose to use long shots of Chris juxtaposed against the Alaskan Frontier?
Into the Wild, the Sean Penn film based on the Jon Krakauer book of the same name, tells the story of Chris McCandless, a young man who hitchhiked and camped around America before eventually dying in a broken bus on the Alaskan frontier. A major theme of the movie is the overwhelming power of nature, especially when juxtaposed against the drudgery of everyday life. Penn uses a number of wide shots showing Chris McCandless against the Alaskan frontier for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it displays the overwhelming power of nature over the individual—a truth of the world often forgotten during the rigors of everyday American life.
The wide shots also have the effect of displaying the solitude McCandless has-chosen to immerse himself in. Solitude is a double edged sword: it offers peace of mind and a chance for reflection within oneself; but, as McCandless himself realizes toward the end of the movie, “Happiness is only real when shared.”
Another reason Penn chooses to fixate on wide shots of the Alaskan wilderness is for their aesthetic beauty. The panoramas of wilderness, fields, and far-off mountaintops are a delight to behold, and they help the audience understand the appeal of what McCandless is after. Of course, the beauty, however real, is also empty, which leads to the last reason to show Chris against the Alaksan frontier: the shot is symbolic of the individual’s powerlessness against death.
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