We first discovered Dick Proenneke's film on a dark wintry night in a Minnesota motel room. Alone in the Wilderness was being played by the local public broadcasting station, and as we flipped through the channels hoping for something to fall asleep to, a ray of light warmed the room. It was the moving image of Dick Proenneke honing his axe and drawknife against the scenic backdrop of the Alaskan wilderness on the shores of Twin Lakes. The nostalgic tone of the film filled us with remembrances from our youth, while the relaxing narration transported us to the rocky shoreline where Dick Pronneke would place his wind-up 16mm Bolex camera and film himself building a log cabin entirely by hand, entirely from scratch, and seemingly without effort. Decades before the days of reality television and locally sourced marketing lingo, Proenneke was living the life that many of us modern folks like to monologue about. He was the real deal.
Proenneke would spend two summers building the cabin, filming the process and the local wildlife along the way. For the next 30 years he would live in silence and solitude in the cabin he fashioned with his own hands, reflecting on nature, God, craftsmanship, and the state of the modern world with a moderate and humble mindset. Alone in the Wilderness is equal parts old-school hand tool woodworking, balanced environmentalism, relaxation, and self-reflection. It is an antidote to the hustle and bustle of much of modern life. Settle into a favorite chair with a drink nearby on a cold dark evening and enjoy a film experience you won't likely soon forget. Not to be missed.