[Note: a spoiler for people who don’t read book reviews or articles about anything, and who live in dark caves on remote Pacific islands follows] Sean Penn concudes Into The Wild with a long, ambitious, unbroken death scene — a crane shot that’s CG-blended with a helicopter shot that conveys the freeing of Emile Hirsch‘s (i.e, Chris McCandless’s) spirit. It’s a closer — it sells the entire film. Without it, Wild wouldn’t be as good, or at least wouldn’t play as well, without it.
It didn’t exactly remind me of the ending of Jeannot Szwarc‘s Somewhere in Time, but there are similarities.
I spoke to that film’s dp, Isidore Mankofsky, two or three years ago and asked him about the long crane and tracking shot that this 1980 film ends with — the camera looking down at Chris Reeve as he gives up the ghost, and then rising and tracking along, looking down at the doctors as they try to save his life, and then it moving straight ahead down a hallway and toward Reeve’s love interest, played by Jane Seymour.
One thing that the Wild and Time finales share is a double-current feeling. The death of the main character is tragic, but on some kind of ethereal, hard-to-define level it doesn’t seem like a totally bad thing because there’s something joyous being conveyed.