Movie Reviews
10:09 am
Wed August 3, 2005

Grizzly Man

Another complicated hero for Herzog.

(To view the trailer for this film, please click here.)

Timothy Treadwell was not a well man when he spent 13 years among the brown Grizzlies in Alaska until his time ran out one day as dinner for one of them. For me "not well" means he didn't quite understand that no matter how much he "loved" the bears, they couldn't always return the favor.

For director Werner Herzog, of Aguirre: The Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo fame, most of his work is devoted to eccentric and often crazed but charismatic leading men. He captures in his voiceover the essential madness of Treadwell in his new film, Grizzly Man. Using over 100 hours of the young man's footage and narration, Herzog fashions an objective documentary of Treadwell's rise and fall. At one point Herzog explains over a close up shot of a grizzly's eyes that he sees nothing but "the overwhelming indifference of nature." The emptiness of Treadwell's assertion that he knows the bears is only too evident when we listen to the animated report of the coroner as he reconstructs the mauling of Treadwell and his girlfriend. Treadwell did, however, predict he would "live and die" with his friends.

Thus, Herzog has another complex protagonist with hubris and innocence enough to guarantee early passage from life. This documentary does well showing Treadwell's love of drama, his alienation from society, and his superior naivet? when it comes to formidable animals such as the grizzly. Herzog also offers memorable photography of Alaska and Treadwell's own footage, which shows him often too close to the bears. However, Timothy did last for 13 years among them; he just seemed to forget that he could not win that game.

Treadwell says of the grizzlies, "Everything about them is perfect." Everything about Timothy is not. Grizzly Man is a cautionary tale about crossing the invisible line between man and beast, the cost of ignorance, and the allure of a personal vision, in this case that of a lost soul who discovers his calling but goes beyond what is allowed to mortals. Grizzly Man will help you overcome romantic notions about wild beasts (and pesky Alaskan black flies).