Grizzly Man (2005)

June 15, 2008 § Leave a comment

This is a complex and disturbing story of obsessive behaviour, following Timothy Treadwell, who lived among grizzly bears for thirteen summers before one ultimately killed him, and his girlfriend. Unfortunately, some of the reviews for Amazon seem to rate the behaviour, not the documentary. Yes, he was a recovered alcoholic who found grizzly bears as a replacement, a lost soul who eventually found more comfort among bears than humans. And no, the film does not endorse his actions.

In fact, Werner Herzog has taken over a hundred hours of footage by Treadwell and shaped it into an astonishing portrait, with thoughtful narration by Herzog creating a very different counterpoint to the obsessive behaviour. Treadwell had an idealized perception of nature and sets up the camera to film himself grieving over the body of a dead fox. But Herzog narrates over footage of a bear, commenting, “I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature, and this blank stare speaks only of a half bored interest in food.” The score is as haunting as it is appropriate and the disc includes a 50-minute documentary on the making of the film’s music.

Certainly, it’s a disturbing film, and strangely voyeuristic. I almost worried I was providing retroactive encouragement just by watching. But the simple fact of the matter is that it’s done, it’s over. Herzog shaped this film to be a portrait but also a tribute to Treadwell and I’d encourage you to look for something positive in his life as well. If you look closely at reviews, reactions range from compassionate to a smug dismissal. You might even find this documentary teaches you something about yourself.

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