Ah, you’re catching on! I find life lessons in everything!

Last night I watched the movie INTO THE WILD despite reservations. I’d read the book about Chris McCandless, a young man who disappears immediately after graduating from college and is later found dead of starvation in the wilds of Alaska.

It’s a good story, and well-written. But I always felt the book underplayed the role of mental illness in the young man’s decisions. He deliberately loses himself in the wilderness, enjoying its beauty and solitude, eschewing “modern” concepts like money, career, home. He strives to forsake all permanent human relationships–until he finally starves to death.

Instead, the book stresses his principled convictions and moral integrity, making a hero of him.

The book did the same, taking a highly sympathetic tone with the character. But it also drew me even further into the life of this conflicted young man. In the end, I was glad I watched it.

The movie is beautifully photographed. And, like the book, it also gives Chris the benefit of the doubt about the rationale behind his decisions.

But it also depicts his endearing personality and how deeply felt his beliefs are. It shows, in his travels, how easily the people he encountered came to care deeply for him. It is poignant in showing the suffering and pain his family went through, not knowing what had happened to him for two years until his body is found.

The movie (based on his journals and interviews with the people who came to know him along the way) concludes a beautiful sentiment.

His experiences (in the movie, anyway) eventually teach him that “Happiness real only when shared” (sic). Too late for him to act on it–he dies before he can escape the wilderness and act on his revelation. But it got me thinking about the implications for other human endeavors, including art and craft.

Some people still feel uncomfortable putting their artwork out into the world. They fear criticism or rejection, or simply refuse to have it judged. They may feel creating for money sullies the process. Or they may feel it won’t sell anyway, so what’s the use of trying? They hold it close, and keep it private and unknown.

When we are locked in this mindset, we forget the ultimate reason d’etre of art…

With art, we forge new possibilities; new connections with, and new ways of looking at, the world. Our work can enrich, inspire, provoke, or tantalize other people with these connections.

We can create the work we love, or just focus on what earns us a living. We can even chose to create it in private, for our own enjoyment, and never go further than that.

But either way, nothing happens, nothing changes–until we put it out into the world.

Happiness–and art–only real when shared.

Find ways to share your work. You can exhibit, and choose not to sell it. You can sell it for any purpose you want. You can teach it or write about it, if you cannot bring yourself to put it out in the open.

But find some way for the world to benefit from your creativity.

If that happens posthumously, well, YOU will miss out on all the fun!

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

2 thoughts on “MOVIE LESSONS”

  1. I agree that the end of the film was the best part…and I say that as someone who didn’t like the film nearly as much as I liked the book. Although Krakauer’s book glorified McCandless, at least Krakauer tries (in the second half of the book more than the first) to “humanize” Chris’s parents. In the book, you get a sense of how much Chris’s death hurt them, and I think that’s a “cost” you have to count when measuring the soundness of his decisions.

    Sean Penn’s film was even more “pro-Chris” than Krakauer’s book was…and that was its biggest flaw, imo. I had major issues with how the film depicted Chris’s parents, making them into the obvious (and almost cartoonishly caricatured) “bad guys” who drive Chris to do what he does. I guess if you want to make Chris into a hero, you have to make someone into a villain…but at least Krakauer offered a nuanced portrait of Sam & Billie McCandless. The film, I felt, did not.

    But yes…the ending is visually stunning, giving a strong visual of how alone Chris was at the end. The end of the film had an entirely different emotional impact than the end of the book did, I thought. The book ends with Chris’s parents trying to come to terms with his death, and the film ends with Chris trying to come to terms with his own (impending) death. It’s a distinctly different approach.


  2. Hi Lorianne, nice to see your thoughtful comment here. Yes, I felt it was a little manipulative of the movie to have Chris’s sister narrate, giving credibility to Chris’s perceptions of his parents as bad people. In truth, they just kind of look like how parents act when they have teenagers….!!

    And you are spot on about the emotional impact of the movie’s ending. A life lost, especially someone so young and emotionally fragile, is devastating. To know that help was so near, after he finally found himself, and yet came too late, was heart-breaking.


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