Posted by: GeekHiker | November 12, 2007

Audience Priorities

Saturday night I went to see Into The Wild.

I have to say that I liked the movie quite a bit, especially as it paints a portrait of McCandless without actually trying to sway you one way or the other. Agree or disagree with his leaving home and family and traveling for two years to find himself, it’s for the viewer to decide.

(warning: mild spoilers ahead)

The photography in the film, capturing the wide open vistas of the Alaskan wilderness to the quiet spaces of the redwood forest, is beautiful.  The acting is supurb, and it’s always good when Catherine Keener shows up, even in a minor role.

Interesting too was the audience reaction to certain things.

There was one shot in the film, in particular, that got a larger reaction than any other. All over the theater were gasps and “oh’s”.  From the front corner was heard at least one “God!” and an “Oh, Jesus!”.

So, what was this dramatic shot the provoked such a strong reaction? Was it McCandless trying to cross a wild river in Alaska? His wintering in a bus in the Arctic tundra?  His wild kayak ride down the Colorado?  The encounter with the real, live, huge bear?

Nope. It was when he burned his money.

Yes, indeed, the strongest reaction of any single shot in the entire movie was of a $100 bill being lit afire.

Now, I don’t know that I could personally set a pile of my money on fire (I’m no anti-capitalist saint: being able to buy food is nice), but I pretty much wasn’t perplexed by the shot.  Certainly it didn’t cause the near heart-attack some of my fellow movie-goers apparently experienced.

Which tells you a lot about the priorities of the audience in attendance that night.  Burning money ranks somewhere below a bear encounter in the list of shocks.

Which to me is fascinating.

And so very LA.



  1. Serge Gainsbourg, a famous French singer burned a 500 franks bill “live”, back in 1984. And it had been quite a shock as well. I would prefer the bear encounter myself.

    I hope this movie comes over to Europe.

  2. I can’t believe THAT is the scene that your LA neighbors reacted to. There were so many other more touching stories that got a reaction out of me, let me tell you that. Like the scene where Alex and Ron sit on that hill near the Oh-My-God-Hot-Springs and they talk about forgiveness. So moving. Great movie.
    I LOL’d when I saw your post today because I am nearly finished with my own Into the Wild writeup and about to publish it!

  3. Burning paper.

    I am thinking I may have to wait for the video because I don’t know when to squeeze this in.

    I saw Sean Penn and Emile Hersch of Oprah with the McCandless’ and was quite intrigued.

  4. Burning money is what terrified everyone? In Canada we’d tell you that you need to keep the igloo heated somehow!

  5. Wanted to go see this film last week but didn’t get a chance. Can’t wait!

  6. Gany – Interesting story. The film isn’t that widely distributed here, but hopefully you’ll find it at some point!

    Charlotte – I couldn’t believe it either, and I giggled. Can’t wait to see your post.

    just a girl – Try to see it in the theater if you can, the landscapes are beautiful. 🙂

    Ruby – LOL, good to know!

    Aaron – Hope you see it soon, I think you’ll enjoy.

  7. Ha!!! I tracked down this old post after you made reference to it and I was curious. That’s hysterical. I have to agree with you, that in a “most startling moments” list, “watching protagonist come face to face with a giant bear” ranks at LEAST one spot above “watching protagonist burn a few $20 bills.” 😉

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