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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Movie Review: GRIZZLY MAN


"I will die for these animals."
-- Timothy Treadwell

Grizzly Man is a 2005 documentary directed by Werner Herzog that tells the story of the life of Timothy Treadwell, the man who spent thirteen summers living amongst grizzly bears in the Alaskan wilderness. While most of us know the story of Treadwell's untimely death by the bears he had sworn to protect, there's quite a bit of backstory to this man's apparent madness. Herzog was able to use the nearly one hundred hours of footage that Treadwell had recorded over the years, and he used it to bring life to a man that boggled everyone's minds. What we as the audience get is a fascinating look at the persona of one man striving to live - and ultimately die - for what he loves.

Long before I had heard of this film, I had heard stories of this "grizzly man" who traversed the wilderness, living alongside these ferocious beasts, and I always thought it was a little bit crazy for anyone to think they'd ever make it out of that alive. After thirteen long years, Treadwell's risk finally caught up with him in a way he never assumed possible. What this documentary attempts to discover is the method behind Treadwell's madness, and we actually receive quite an interesting story, if only because Treadwell proves to be so entertaining a character. No matter how you feel about his endeavors, one must concede that there's something a little bit off with Treadwell and his personality. And that's what ultimately makes the film so entertaining. Treadwell goes on rants against the government and the park services all while affirming his love for the animals. However, there's something very childlike in his approach to his admiration for the bears and the foxes around him, but I can't quite decide whether that's what makes him all the more endearing.

What's interesting about the documentary is that Herzog clearly has his own views on Treadwell's mental stability. As is the norm in his films, Herzog served as Grizzly Man's narrator, and I think the two following quotes sum up his thoughts on Treadwell and on the face of nature itself:
And what haunts me, is that in all the faces of all the bears that Treadwell ever filmed, I discover no kinship, no understanding, no mercy. I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature. To me, there is no such thing as a secret world of the bears. And this blank stare speaks only of a half-bored interest in food. But for Timothy Treadwell, this bear was a friend, a savior.
What remains is his footage. And while we watch the animals in their joys of being, in their grace and ferociousness, a thought becomes more and more clear. That it is not so much a look at wild nature, as it is an insight into ourselves, our nature. And that, for me, beyond his [Treadwell's] mission, gives meaning to his life and to his death.
It's clear to see that Herzog was a little bit miffed by Treadwell's lifestyle, but at the same time, you get the sense that he respects him, if only to a certain degree. I think he enjoys Treadwell's basic message of wanting to protect these majestic creatures but he doesn't quite understand the way he went about doing so. It's a very back-and-forth film as you try to decipher Herzog's stance on the subject matter.

That's why it's all the more intriguing to see Treadwell in his own element. Because he recorded so many hours of footage, Herzog had quite a bit with which to work and craft his own storyline, and the film's "story" falls into place quite well. Aided by strong, albeit relatively forced, interviews with friends, family and acquaintances, the audience gets a good sense as to Treadwell's character and lifestyle, and from there, each individual viewer can make their own inferences as to his livelihood.

Do I think Timothy Treadwell was a little bit crazy? Well, yes. To live out in the wilderness with these majestic but dangerous creatures and assume everything would be fine is a tad bit foolish, but I think the footage he filmed is an invaluable asset to the world community in showing just how these bears live in their natural habitat. To have that firsthand look at their livelihood is always going to be fascinating, and for that, I think Treadwell's sacrifice should be applauded. Could he have avoided his untimely death? Most likely, but he died doing what he loved. Maybe that was enough for him.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: B+
1.5 Thumbs Up

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