Many of us think of tropical islands as paradise–the perfect place to escape to and relax. Would you feel the same way if you were stranded? Zemeckis’ film, Castaway, suggests not. Released in 2000, Castaway tells the story of a punctual FedEx executive, Chuck, played by Tom Hanks, whose plane crash lands off the coast of an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Chuck becomes marooned and must adapt to survive on a would-be piece of paradise for almost four years alone.
The movie does an excellent job depicting a person’s development of vital survival skills and the physical and emotional effect isolation has. Chuck is stranded with nothing but the raft he floated ashore in, his clothes and the few FedEx packages that washed ashore with him–no food, no water, no shelter. Before he is left exposed to the elements, Chuck has to find a source of food, water and a way to build a shelter. As the days go by Chuck develops survival skills and learns how to split coconuts, build shelter and a raft and even starts a fire. Throughout his time on the island, more packages wash up, one of them holding a volleyball, named Wilson, who becomes Chuck’s only companion and gives him someone to talk to. This personification of Wilson shows humans’ deep-rooted need for social interaction. Finally, after four long years, Chuck is able to build a raft that successfully gets him passed the rough surf on the shore and he is found by a ship after a few days on the water.
Although Chuck is returned to his home, his time on the island had an impact on both his physical and emotional being. By the time he returned to land, he was ungroomed and emaciated, but that is easily fixed with a bath, haircut and a cheeseburger with large fries. His emotional wellbeing was damaged more deeply during his time on the island. Without any clocks, his sense of time became almost nonexistent and his isolation damaged his ability to interact with other humans. Additionally, he left his fiancée, who he returned to find married to another man, which made assimilating back into his old life even more painful.
It is amazing how circumstances determine a person’s outlook on a situation. Being stranded on an island became Chuck’s worst nightmare, while having alone time on a tropical island is many people’s dream. Additionally, is quite fascinating how quickly a person will adapt to survive.
Here is the official trailer for Castaway: