In the film, Into the Wild, college graduate, Chris McCandless, abandoned his material possessions and his entire savings to seek nature, a sense of connection and true meaning. The director, Sean Penn, establishes the perception that a sense of belonging can emerge from connections with people and place after one experiences alienation. During his journey, Chris encounters a series of characters who shape his life but due to his fear of relationships, he pushed them away and continued to Alaska.
The film incorporates a variety of auditory, visual and language techniques to reveal challenges and his discovery of his need for other people. A sense of non-belonging with his parents at the beginning of the film where Chris is offered a new car illustrates Chris’s dislike for material goods, juxtaposing him with his parents who believe the new car can allow him to be accepted by other people and society. Penn creates tension and uses close-up shots to enhance the emotions showed by Chris when he repeatedly says, “I don’t’ want anything. These things, things, things, things, things!” The contrast of his attitude towards his parents with his attitude to the hippie couple and Ron Franz represent his immediate connection with them as they travel the road and belong to nature. However, his inability to allow others to be close to him and his confidence that he can survive alone made him insecure and unwilling to establish deep relationships. The decision to show a close-up of money being burned with Chris walking away, out of focus in the background symbolizes that he didn’t belong to society and didn’t believe in conformity. By walking away, it can be seen as a metaphor for turning his back on society and walking into nature. Other examples that highlight his connection with the land include Lord Byron’s poem at the beginning of the film: “There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is a rapture on the lonely shore; I love not man the less, but Nature more…”In the last scene, Chris’s deduction that “happiness is only real if shared” concludes that he has found his sense of belonging and the importance of his relationships with others, although, at the cost of his life.
Into the Wild is comparable to As You Like It as both contain pastoral elements that contribute to belonging. Penn portrays society as “oppressive”, employing dark metaphors of warfare such as fence-posts as “black sword-tips” and red tiles as “hardened blood”. On the other hand, the Alaskan wilderness assists in Chris’s realisation of the significance of connections with people to happiness. Similarly through diction, Shakespeare perceives the court as a place of corruption, hierarchy and evil with the alliterative “painted pomp” and by contrasting the “envious court” to Arden, which is “sweet”, “free from peril” and a forest of harmony, healing and generosity. This suggests that both Arden and the wild are places of healing where characters learn about the nature of belonging and the importance of relationships.