“Into the Wild” explores the great potentials that lie within discoveries- as they are invariably filtered through an individual’s own desires, needs and agendas. Christopher McCandless is wounded from his parents’ materialistic nature that is portrayed from flashbacks, particularly the scene of his parents kissing blissfully in their new Cadillac – symbolic of material wealth – which is cross cut with chaotic, cropped shots of domestic violence. The superficiality of his parents lives drive McCandless to depart from the materialistic world and fundamentally also society. Penn’s use of hyper saturated cinematography of landscapes, sunrises, and sunsets, shot across wide angle vistas metonymic of awe and freedom that McCandless had not previously experienced.
The use of iconic, slow motion shots of Christopher in the wilderness, across landscapes of forests, rivers, deserts and snow further emphasises the sense of absolute liberation that heals the trauma of his unhappy, superficial family.The film is contextually captured from the diary of the real McCandless, who comes to the realization that “True happiness must be shared.” This is achieved through the interplay of time within the film, in which the responders become observers of Christopher’s last moments. It is revealed at the end of the film through the empathetic non-diegetic music and the flashbacks of all the connections that he had made through his journey, the regrets of his final moments of how he forsook all the opportunities of companionship and true happiness that he so truly desired. This is further heightened through the extreme close-up of Christopher’s full name followed by a flashback where he is running into his parent’s arms representing his greatest regret of leaving his family, his name and who he truly was.