‘Into the Wild’, by Sean Penn Essay Sample

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Analyse how important techniques are used to engage your emotions in a text (or texts) you have studied.

The film ‘Into the Wild’, by Sean Penn, is a very emotional story telling the tragic true story of Chris McCandles. Through several techniques the audience’s emotions are engaged. The style of shots is distinctive, with many scenes featuring panorama or montage. Text overlay and voice-over have been added in post-production. Between some shots there is juxtaposition.

Panorama and montage are two shots used to great effect in this film for conveying awesome scale in space and time during Chris’ journey, respectively. The film both begins and ends with striking wide and panoramic shots of the Alaskan wilderness. I find these to be emotional for the monumental nature of Chris’ chosen surroundings, the harsh, raw wilderness being the place of his idealistic perspective. Montage is used in this film to initiate setting, as at the beginning as Chris arrives in Fairbanks, Alaska, and to show the passage of time as Chris progresses on his journey, as during his time working for Wayne driving a combine harvester. The montage allows many scenes to be (relatively) seamlessly presented to the audience, and in this film montage engages our emotions with the life of Chris as we see his story progress quickly before our eyes.

In post production there have been two notable effects added to the film which make it more personal and emotionally engaging. Firstly, throughout the film we see excerpts from Chris’ diaries, letters and books overlayed. These give authentic insight into Chris’ mind, and it helps to invoke a more intimate relationship between the audience and the elusive Chris. Secondly, while Chris performs solitary activities where there is no vocal diagetic sound, we often hear voice over, either from Chris, or from his sister Carisse. These also give personal insight and hence engage the emotions of the audience. To an otherwise outwardly impersonal character, the effect of overlayed text and voice over is important in creating an emotional jouney for the audience.

There is, additionally to the emotion owing to Chris’ personal journey, another source of emotion in Chris’ relationship with his parents. During the film we learn about Chris’ relationship with his parents. We see the reasons for Chris’ feelings towards them, but we also see their reaction to Chris’ disappearance and death. Along with dialogue with characters such as Jan, Rainey and Ron about his parents, we are delivered with powerful emotions from this in the form of juxtaposition of shots. At several points in the film, notably around montage scenes where we see Chris’ jouney panning out, we see his parent at home and the pain they are in for their child’s absence. There is a conflict as to whether Chris is justified in his refusal to forgive them and the juxtaposition of emotionally invocative shots serves to harshly evoke conflicting emotions. Another case of this is in the final scenes where we see his mother setting the table for three, or his father sitting in the middle of the road, pulling up his pants to reveal he is not wearing socks. The juxtaposition engages the audience in the dramatic emotions of this relationship.

In the film ‘Into the Wild’, by Sean Penn, the audience’s emotions are firmly engaged by a variety of techniques including camera techniques of breathtaking panorama and montage, authentic and deeply personal text overlays and voice overs, and juxtaposition of both sides of Chris’ relationship with his parents. These techniques, as part of the film, engage the emotions of the audience to share Chris’ story in a deeply sombre manner.

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