March 1, 2024

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

Geek Documentary Review: Grizzly Man

Filmmaker Werner Herzog looks into the life of Timothy Treadwell, self-appointed guardian of grizzly bears.

MoviePass offered me a $2 a month one year trial to the Fandor streaming service (normal price $10/month).

So, hey, let’s look into the documentary Grizzly Man from director Werner Herzog.

Grizzly Man documents, from the eccentric Herzog’s perspective, the life and work of Timothy Treadwell.  Treadwell spent 13 summers in Alaska as a self-appointed guardian of the grizzly bear, documenting his work in a series of homemade videos until his 13th summer when, perhaps predictably, a bear attacked and ate both Treadwell and his girlfriend.

Herzog starts off looking into what Treadwell was doing, and he shows a bit of admiration for the man.  Sure, he asks various people what they thought of Treadwell, and the answers range from the sentimental from his friends to derision from strangers quick to characterize him as an overprivileged environmentalist (he was actually fairly broke).  Herzog intertwines Treadwell’s own footage into the narrative, showing a man who believed he had somehow earned the respect of the bears while hanging out with them and numerous foxes.  As an offscreen narrator, Herzog even admits to admiration for Treadwell as a filmmaker.

Then around the halfway point comes the audio of Treadwell’s death.  Herzog appears onscreen for the first and only time to listen to it, but does not play it for the audience.  He does show the local coroner describing the audio in detail, which doesn’t do much better, but from there Herzog’s tone towards Treadwell changes.  He goes into the man’s backstory, showing he was a frustrated actor with addiction issues, one who made himself a guardian for bears despite the fact that bears in that area are neither endangered nor heavily poached.  Treadwell also raged against everyone around him, paranoid and sure that every message or sighting of other humans were intruders looking to do harm to him or the bears he loved so much.  He didn’t even trust the park service and blatantly ignored park rules.  Herzog identifies Treadwell’s real problem as distrust for the human world while idealizing the cold, wild realm of the bears as somehow more superior.  That supposition cost Treadwell and his girlfriend (who is something of an enigma throughout the film that Herzog can find little on) their lives.

Nine out of ten silly bear names.