“I had three chairs in my cabin. One for Solitude, two for Friendship, three for Society.”
Walden: Life in the Woods is a radical, western re-imagining of Henry Thoreau’s classic "Walden." Taking place over twenty-four hours, the film interlaces Solitude, Friendship and Society; three contemporary narratives about the trappings of modern life and those who dream dangerously of escape.
In “Friendship”, Luke leads his partner, Guy, on a journey into the Rocky Mountains. Guy, cautious and often closed to experience, is drawn to Luke’s fearless, protean qualities, but on this day, Luke seems to be leading Guy much deeper, both on a twisting, surreal trail, as well as into parts of himself he dares not confront. In “Society”, family man, Ramirez, wades through the morass of a middle class existence—mortgage, health insurance, failing home appliances—and spends a biblically hilarious day navigating the bureaucratic inferno of civilized society. Ramirez has narrowed his vision in order to hoist his family on his back and lead them up the rungs of society. Yet on this day he is haunted by a deeper element of the world around him and a part of himself he has long buried. In “Solitude”, eighty-year old Alice plays the detective of the soul, wading through the murky past of her own dementia to uncover a core memory lost in the flotsam and jetsam of her mind. While Luke, Guy, and Ramirez sift through the world to learn about themselves, Alice draws images from inside herself to reconstruct her reality. Startling truths lead her in an attempt to break free from the walls of her dementia—and her nursing home - to step over the threshold into the outdoors.
Throughout the day, the ordinariness of our characters’ minutes ticking by collides with sudden sublime interruptions. As Thoreau knew, intuition comes in glimpses and flashes, fits and starts. The three narratives have literal intersection, yet they merge most pointedly in the climax of the film in a moment of spiritual epiphany at three different “ponds”: Luke and Guy at a glimmering mountain lake that promises or dooms a new future, Ramirez on the diving board above the empty swimming pool of his suburban home, and Alice, in the nursing home duck pond which calls to her through her window. In moments of decision and potential transformation, the characters must confront what Thoreau thought was ultimately more profound than the wilderness: our inner wild.