by Allie Funk, published on July 21, 2016|
The new film Into the Forest finds Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood as sisters in a post-apocalyptic future where the entire world has lost electric power. Stranded alone in their forest home, the two young women struggle to survive without refrigeration, running water, and all of the conveniences that they formerly took for granted. The sisters' experience is absolutely terrifying, which makes one almost afraid to ask: is Into the Forest based on a true story?
Thankfully, the answer is no — mostly. Into the Forest is based on the 1997 novel of the same name by author Jean Hegland. Director Patricia Rozema told ScreenPrism that the adaptation came to be after an interaction she had with Ellen Page. Rozema said, "Ellen Page read the book, and we'd talked about working on something, a much larger project. Through the course of that, we discovered we both had a similar aesthetic for Into the Forest and way of working in the world, so she suggested I read it, and I loved it. I thought there was something very simple and powerful about it and that it really reflects our times. It connects to a lot of people's worries and denial about what's happening in the world. And off we went."
The book itself has equally interesting roots. Author Jean Hegland had just moved to an isolated house in the country, and one night she couldn't sleep. As she lay awake she thought up a plot for a story, and by the next morning she had the entire narrative worked out in her head. It was the story of Into The Forest, a "future history" about two girls' struggle for survival after the inevitable downfall of society.
As Hegland told SFGate, "I got the idea for Into the Forest, and it was so compelling that I was seduced into thinking it would be easy." But the writing process ended up taking seven years, during which Hegland examined all of the ways that people would have to learn to fend for themselves in the event of such an apocalypse. She focused on the experience of the individual characters in their isolated environment as opposed to examining the bigger concept of societal collapse. The author told MetroActive, "I think that I was much more interested in how a disaster would/will affect individuals than how it will come about."
To this end, Hegland researched hunting and gathering, and she also pulled from some of her own experiences living in a remote place and being a mother. When it comes to the characters themselves, though, Hegland maintains that they are not based on any real people. She explained to MetroActive, "None of my characters corresponds exactly to me or anyone else. There's some of me in all of them, but their lives are not my own."
It is clear that Into the Forest isn't based on a true story, but its portrait of a society on the brink of collapse feels uncomfortably foreboding. Watching Page and Wood struggling to survive in the woods, one realizes just how reliant modern life is on electricity, and how catastrophic an occurrence like a mass power outage would actually be. So even though the story itself isn't true, the circumstances could be, and that makes Into the Forest feel like an eerie reminder about the fragility of human existence.