!!For what its worth – Spoilers ahead!!
Imagine what it would be like for your teenage self to be living with your father in the woods. No schools to attend, no friends to party with & your only interaction with the outside world is when you go shopping to get your essentials. How would you react, when all of a sudden you are made to live in a society by authorities? When you’re made to fit in? Would you fit in or would you run away to woods, again? This is the story of a movie. Aside from the facts that movie was well made & well acted, it obviously raises some questions.
In this day and age, would it be possible to cut oneself off from the society entirely? What it would be like to live a life akin to Rousseau’s Natural Man? The father character in the movie, says more than once that “We can still think our own thoughts”. What does this supposed to mean for someone who lives in woods? Is that person more free to think his own thoughts than a person, living in a society? For a man living in a society, will there be anything such as own thoughts? All his thoughts would be the result of living in a society, which more often than not teaches him what to think and how to live? Only very few people can live outside societal norms, even when living in a society. So one has to accept the claim that people living in nature, will have better control over thinking their own thought than someone living in a society.
The authorities who come & make these 2 souls to live in society, say that “It’s illegal to live on public land”. What does public land mean, if it’s not for public to live on it, then who is it for? One cannot stay on a land, unless the land is owned by somebody. So, every naturally occurring thing has to be brought and sold for it to be used by humans. Isn’t it height of a society in decay?
Other questions from authorities mostly border on the line of making the girl’s dad a criminal/drug addict/terrorist. We have normalized the deviant human beings and come to a conclusion that one cannot live in nature unless one has either totally lost it or a criminal. Even the girl’s relationship with her father is questioned. One notable line from a conversation between the girl and the officer is when officer says that “your dad needs to provide you shelter & safety”, the girl simply says that “He did. He does”. Here again one can see that societies (governments) expect people to live in a certain way to be accepted as living a normal life. There is this line from the authority “It’s important for you to follow rules, for you to be Independent”. This line encapsulates, what is it to be living “Freely” in a society.
Father & daughter visit a church and have a conversation about their visit. The father says that “when people dress up and show up at church on Sundays, people will start believing certain things about you”. For this the girl replies wryly that then the authorities wouldn’t stop asking questions about their life in woods. Following Religion and its ceremonies also become part of accepted societal norms. One really cannot be free, if one were to live in a society dictated by such norms. One might start to wonder, why the father & daughter don’t want to be part of a society. What made them choose a life in woods?
We don’t get a straight answer to it. But we are thrown bread crumbs here and there by movie maker to figure out. When father and daughter visit a VA (Veteran’s Association) to buy medicines, we’re made to conclude that father served in the Army. May be he is trying to absolve himself of his sins committed during his time in army or may be has gotten to a point, where he sees no value in living in a society that is beyond redemption. One thing for sure is that father doesn’t want to belong anywhere. Even when his daughter says that she liked their camps in the woods, before being raided by the authorities, father says that “Yes, we did live long in that camp”. He keeps running away from something about which we don’t know nothing.
The daughter on the other hand wants to belong somewhere. She says it, when they move to authorities provided shelter home that, “she liked their camp”. Then, when they flee from this place to a new woods again, she says she liked being in shelter home. She is one who wants to stay rooted, unlike her father. Also she is not afraid to trust people. When she visits an Apiculturist, the Apiculturist says that bees don’t sting, because if they do they die. And that she is able to trust the bees, which have the capability to kill her. The girl says the same to her father, when she takes him to the beehive. We can clearly see that the girl is ready to trust the humans in society, were as her father cannot. He is afraid of getting stung and so he doesn’t want to be anywhere near the society.
Isn’t it the case for most of the Humans? The adults, who have the means, want to run away from something, while young ones want to stay rooted? How long can one run away, anyway? There would come a “Breaking Point”, when staying rooted makes much more sense than running away, even if the comfort and security of staying rooted aren’t authentic. Anyways, in the end those who stay rooted and those who run away are going to meet the same fate i.e. They will Leave No Trace (except for some Styrofoam – Carlin’s Joke).
Movie : Leave No Trace
Release : 2018
Direction : Debra Granik
Based on book : My Abandonment by Peter Rock
Actors : Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie