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Upon coming out of Grizzly Man, with my friend, I couldn't help
noticing my own face in the reflection of the lobby mirrors... my face
was completely blank. I looked over at my friend, and noticed she was
merely staring down at her shoes and scratching her nose. Exiting out
onto the street, joining the rest of the crowd as we all search for our
cars, I couldn't help but believe I was still staring into the lobby
mirrors... nearly every head was shaking, and every expression blank.
I now believe I will never know how I feel about Timothy Treadwell. A boy who accidentally grew into a man.
Grizzly Man immediately opens with the facts surrounding Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard's death. These facts will stay inside you as you grow acquainted with Timothy and the animals surrounding his demise. Sadly, Amie Huguenard remains a faceless mystery.
Werner Herzog's soul remains intact, as he gently disassembles the matter of Timothy Treadwell's. Failed actor? Inveterate liar? Misguided Mercenary? Was Timothy Treadwell merely playing out the part of some great Discovery Channel episode in his head? We watch and listen as a lonely Timothy walks and talks into his only companion, a MiniDV camera, about his female problems, drug problems, memories and most importantly his love of animals.
Bears and Foxes in particular. There is one thing you could never doubt about this man, and that is of his love for Bears. "I love you, I love you..." We constantly hear him saying to the Bear's and Foxes that had become his "friends" over the years. And through Herzog's direction it is impossible to miss the beauty in this.
Timothy Treadwell's photography in this film is absolutely extraordinary. And Mr. Herzog did an extraordinary job putting it all together. In my opinion, this is his best film since Little Dieter Needs To Fly. (Un) fortunately, I cannot stop thinking about it. I cannot stop wondering who this man was... He wrapped himself in bandana's, claimed to be a "Peaceful Warrior", there to protect the Bears. But from what? The arguments were made that acquainting himself with them, he was doing much more harm then good. Why should they get to know a human? How could this help them in the future? And we know how it ended for him...
How can you just sit there and watch one mans whole life be wrapped up in a two hour film? And then declare his work meaningless? You can't. Was he just a suicidal man, playing one big act? Was he truly some feral warrior, bringing awareness and the importance of Bear protection and safety to light? Was he a directionless maniac who ultimately got an innocent girl killed?
The duality of Timothy Treadwell is merely one more example of the duality of mankind. And the mirror in which I had been looking into had, in fact, been the movie screen itself. Unfortunately, it appears as though he believed the Bears surrounding him shared this depth. And who am I to tell you they don't?
For thirteen years "grizzly man" Timothy Treadwell went to an Alaskan
wildlife refuge on Kodiak Island and pitched his tent alone -- and the
last couple of times with a girlfriend (Amy Huguenard) -- spending the
summers among huge grizzly bears. The rest of the year he went to
schools and "free of charge" showed his films of the bears and his
exploits. When the last of his summers drew to a close he and his
girlfriend died among the grizzlies as he'd always known -- and even
David Letterman had pointed out -- that he might. Filmmaker Werner
Herzog, longtime student of crazy eccentric loners on heroic doomed
quests, has taken on Treadwell's life and personality as the subject of
a rare and powerful documentary.
At the heart of "Grizzly Man" are Herzog's selective cullings from film Treadwell left behind chronicling both the bears and his own demons. Herzog has added interviews with women in Treadwell's life, with his parents, with the pilot who took him to and from his campgrounds and later found his and his girlfriend's remains, and with Franc Fallico, the unusually sympathetic and sensitive -- and perhaps a bit looney -- coroner who examined these. The director has bound it all together with his own frank and idiosyncratic narration. The result is a rare sober look at the more delusional aspects of man's relations to wild animals.
At times Herzog by implication sympathetically links Treadwell with his former principle star and sparring partner, the late mad eccentric actor Klaus Kinski. Like Kinski Treadwell had tantrums on a film set. But his set was the outdoors and there was no director to spar with; his sparring partners were nature and his own troubled psyche. Nature contained, of course, living witnesses, chief among them the grizzly bears he knows can kill him. He repeatedly tells the camera how much he loves them. He loves the gentler, smaller foxes near whose dens he pitches his tents during the second halves of his summer sojourns. He tells the camera you must be firm with the bears, and he says he knows how to handle them, even though he also repeatedly says he knows he may die there. He is a gambler. Is he a complex man, or merely a confused one? Is he brave, or just foolhardy? What is his purpose in spending all this time among the grizzlies? Is he gathering information, or taking refuge among creatures he need not please, only keep a safe distance from (though he continually comes closer to bears than the park rules and good sense require)? He has a soft sissified manner and voice and even says he wishes he were gay. But he also rants and rages embarrassingly and tiresomely against unseen enemies, poachers, sightseers, rangers, hunters, park officials, the whole urban settled world he runs from to this world he idealizes and blindly sees as perfect. As Herzog notes, Treadwell sought to disregard nature's cruelty, and any time it was in his face -- as when the bears were starving in a dry spell and began eating their own young -- he sought to manipulate nature to eliminate the ugliness. He faults not the bears but the rain gods.
Young Timothy according to his parents was an ordinary boy who loved animals from childhood and got a diving scholarship to college. But he injured his back and quit college and he drank and when he went to LA to act and didn't get a part on Cheers he "spiraled down." He never had a lasting relationship with a woman and the drinking became serious and constant. In vain he tried programs, meetings, self-discipline -- but the drinking went on and was killing him. Finally he got sober for the grizzlies and the foxes. He decided to devote his life to them and he pledged to them that he would be clean and healthy. It was a miracle. Yet he remained not only manic-depressive but passive-aggressive, as his alternations between gentle declarations of love of the animals and his spewing of vitriol against the civilized world attest.
Treadwell's soft-voiced declarations of love and sweetness among the grizzlies would be beautiful -- if such behavior, in a world of extreme physical risk, surrounded by limber lumbering beasts with great teeth and long claws, while preening for the camera with caps and bandanas and golden locks in a dozen alternate takes -- were not criminally silly and irresponsible. Herzog hides none of this in his portrait, which is both sympathetic and ruthless.
As the years passed the Grizzly Man found transitions back to civilization harder and harder to make. On the last occasion, an airport official infuriated him by questioning the validity of his ticket and he turned around with his girlfriend -- who was afraid of bears! -- and returned to the "maze," the most dangerous of his summer campgrounds because it wasn't in the open where the bears could see him and steer clear but among their burrows and the brush. It was later than he ever stayed and the bears he knew and had names for were hibernating now, replaced by new unknown and more hostile and nasty animals. He must also have been more desperate, perhaps more careless? We see the bear that probably devoured him and the woman.
Herzog has access to everything, even an audio-only tape of Timothy and Amy's truly grizzly death. He spares us, though.
As Herzog begins his film by stating, Timothy Treadwell crossed a line between wild animal and human that should never be crossed. This is a line so many other touchy-feely "nature" and "wildlife" films cross. See "The March of the Penguins" and you'll have a prime example. "Grizzly Man" isn't meant to be about grizzlies. It's about men who cross that line -- who willfully misunderstand nature for their own misguided reasons, to serve their own dysfunctional needs.
Anyone who has followed the trajectory of Werner Herzog from the time
of "Even Dwarfs Started Small" will understand the immediate appeal
that the Treadwell story must have had for this intensely brilliant
German director. Treadwell must have seemed to Herzog like a Laguna
Beach version of his Fitzcarraldo and his Aguirre and even of Herzog
himself in his more unhinged moments. This film appears at first to be
a fair minded documentary about Tim Treadwell, the 'protector' of all
things natural and wild in the remote regions of Alaska. What Herzog
shows us, however, is that what Treadwell really needed protection from
was reality itself and that his escape into the wilds was just a deadly
game of denial.
The film is also a meditation on the brute force of nature, on art and on human hubris. My wife found the 'character' of Tim Treadwell so ludicrous and offensive that she had to leave the theater. For my part, I was in awe of both Treadwell's incredible physical courage coupled with his absolute lack of judgment and his insane narcissism. He struck me as a cross between Pee-Wee Herman and Marlon Perkins, the guy who narrated the Mutual of Omaha nature documentaries that showed up on Sunday afternoons in the 60's and 70's.
The word is that Hollywood, in the person of Leonardo DiCaprio, was a financial supporter of Treadwell's 'mission'in Alaska and that a Hollywood version of the story is due out sometime soon with Di Caprio playing the lead. I know I won't be going to see that version because it will just continue the lie and the myth that Treadwell tried so hard to create and sustain. Even at his most intense moments of profoundity Treadwell had nothing to 'say' to anyone about either bears or himself. It was all self-serving and self-congratulatory and it is only in his grotesque death at the hands of a rogue grizzly that any meaningful message finally comes across. (Herzog thankfully spares us from the actual experience which was caught on audio but not on video because the lens cap had been left on.)
Its hard not to feel sorry for Tim Treadwell and the young woman who died with him, but the 'native' scientist in the film put it quite nicely "My people have been living nicely with bears for thousands of years and we know enough to stay out of each other's way."
Tim Treadwell wanted desperately to cross the boundary into the 'way' of the bear because the 'way of the human' was too much for him. Despite his goofy, childish demeanor he revealed himself to be a man of deep anger and resentment. However, if the bears had let him live he would probably be considered something of a folk-hero in 'reality' obsessed America.
Herzog shows us that there was nothing real about Treadwell at all and that the bears knew a lot more about him than he ever would of them.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
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
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 voice-over 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 naiveté 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).
***Possible Spoilers*** "Grizzly Man" is a documentary of Tim Treadwell
who spends 13 summers in Alaska living amongst grizzly bears and
eventually loses his life to the creatures to which he devoted all his
I saw "Grizzly Man" without knowing anything about it. I first thought it would be a documentary about the beauty and behavior of grizzly bears. However, through Tim Treadwell's interaction with grizzly bears, Werner Herzog shows that this film is actually about the inadequacies and insecurities of human nature.
Tim Treadwell seems to be the culmination of many of the deficiencies that man possesses. I felt absolutely no sympathy for this individual, despite the fact that he suffered a tragic and horrible death. If it weren't bears that killed him, it probably would've been something else. He was definitely headed toward a downward spiral. I felt like he was a man who ran away from his demons because he could not face or overcome it. He developed high "ideals" and when he could not adjust his values and beliefs to that of society, he abandoned it and sought out for acceptance from creatures that are incapable of judging or criticizing Treadwell. Unfortunately, Treadwell mistakes the grizzly bears' indifference or incompetence as a sign of acceptance, and falls in love with them.
Treadwell displayed behavior suggestive of manic depressive disorder, or cyclothymic disorder, or histrionic personality disorder. His emotional reactions to incidents were over dramatic to the point that one questions whether it's genuine. I also thought that he was a closet homosexual who could not accept his sexual orientation. In the film, Treadwell talks about wishing he were gay because it would be easier, but he denies being gay. He also talks about how he has trouble with keeping relationships with girls. I know this is a big assumption, but I couldn't help but question whether he was running away from civilization hoping he didn't have to face the reality of his sexual orientation. Treadwell is a person who does not know himself, and is afraid to find out.
I also did not like the fact that Treadwell was on this unsubstantiated high horse. This self-proclaimed protector of animals and nature displays his hypocrisy in at least 2 scenes. When Treadwell stumbles upon poachers who throw rocks at a baby cub, all he does is hide behind a bush and criticizes the hunters for hurting the bear. Not quite what a "protector" would do. Also, when Treadwell discovers the dead fox, he gets angry for the destruction and death that exists in this world. However, he doesn't blink twice to try to swap a fly that is buzzing around the fox. Obviously he shows no respect for the fly, which is also a living organism.
Also, throughout the film, most of Treadwell's friends glorify all that he represented. It seems that his death has elevated him to a martyr, and I found that inappropriate. I don't believe one's achievements in life should be overblown and exaggerated because he or she suffered a tragic and violent death. Based on Treadwell's self-recordings, I find that he has done nothing to deserve any praise. The way he died is sad, but that should not have any bearing on what he did in life. If anything, Treadwell encroached upon the grizzly bears' territory, and abused their independence and way of life in order to hide behind the mask of his own demons. I find nothing altruistic about his actions because of that.
In the film, Herzog says that death and destruction is a unavoidable reality of nature, and he has done a brilliant job in portraying that. My take home message was that everything bad in this world exists because man is too weak and feeble-minded to transcend beyond our natural tendencies to destroy his surroundings and to self-destruct. And Treadwell is the perfect example. Great job Mr. Herzog.
This documentary, written, directed, and narrated by German madman
maestro Werner Herzog, has very little in it that isn't worth seeing,
and at its best brings some of the most captivating, candid, and
entertaining documentary footage of the year. The subject matter is an
environmentalist/bear nut named Timothy Treadwell, a nobody who became
a kind of weird celebrity for living each summer on an Alaskan wildlife
preservation with Grizzly bears. He also documented a lot of his time
on the island, which Herzog chooses wisely for his film on him.
Treadwell may or may not have totally believed a fate like death among
his co-habitants would come (there is one scene where he says he'd die
for them, another when he says he's safe). But his fate did come, along
with his girlfriends, rather grisly as we hear from the details (which,
wisely, we never see).
One is tempted to comment on Treadwell, as he is (much as with Herzog's protagonists in his fiction films) possessive, ambitious, naive, dazed, emotional, but somehow in tune with his own sense of nature and the ways of the world. Herzog himself comments a good deal on Treadwell, when he agrees with him, when he doesn't (Herzog, as Roger Ebert pointed out, does have a bleak world-view as opposed to Treadwell's overly optimistic one). What one can comment on is the execution of the material. We get interviews with Treadwell's close friends (one platonic, one not), the people who found his and his girlfriend's bodies in the forest, and a couple of nearby experts (one Native American comments on how Treadwell did what they had never done in 7,000 years, to cross a boundary that was respected). Herzog also gives us majestic, spacious images of Alaskan wilderness, and gives some ample time for footage of the bears and foxes.
If not for Treadwell's rather high & low nature (as a friend comments), this might be a very standard documentary on a bear expert. But because of the documentary- or near television hosting footage (I sometimes felt like I was seeing a nicer, if stranger version, of the Croc Hunter)- of Treadwell on camera by himself, the film gets another dimension. It's also a help that in combating the grim reality of what became of him (Herzog's narration is this rather sad, if praising side), it's rather funny to see Treadwell in his behavior on screen. In some subtle ways he's in a more 'normal' state of mind than the rest of us- he loves his bears (whom, by the way, he gave names to; he stands his ground against the occasional poachers); he has that mix of sentimentality and rawness that is needed to live for so long in the wilderness.
The absurdity of it usually brings the laughs, but even behind them there is always a constant curiosity about him. We learn that he wanted to be an actor, which lead to a bad, near fatal spell before his 'bear' retreat, acting as more of a spiritual catalyst more than anything else. Even if some of this footage is a little zany, over-the-top, or may go far on his name, it is honest to a kind of schizo degree. We almost wouldn't want Treadwell to be normal, and go figure- Herzog would have no interest in him. In the end, despite Herzog's comments (which aren't the best parts of the film to me), his film tries not to pass judgment on Treadwell, letting his actions and other testimonies speak for themselves. And, if nothing else, it's compulsively (for a certain movie-viewer) watchable.
Warner Herzog is a brilliant and masterful director. The way he put
together the story of Tim Treadwell and his life with grizzly's defies
the constructs of formulaic "nature" doc's. It goes deep, as we are
allowed to dive into the mind and psyche's of both Treadwell and Herzog
as Treadwell's fated story is revealed to us through bits of the 100
hours of footage Treadwell left behind, new interviews, insights, and a
brilliant and personal narrative done by Herzog himself.
As Herzog gets to know Treadwell through his footage and loved ones left behind, he is touched, changed, and allows the audience to revel in his new found awe, frustrations, and respect for Treadwell's life.
The film documents the life of "the Girzzly Man" timothy Treadwell through his leftover footage from thirteen summers he lived with, and immersed himself into the grizzly habitat and culture. He felt he was a grizzly, and thus broke boundaries that have been respected among the Alaskan natives concerning these brown beasts. He created what he felt to be a bond, a brotherhood with these majestic animals. But was this conquest purely for scientific reasoning or was he truly terrified of the "human world." That is where Herzog directs this film.
The fascinating thing about Herzog's interviews is what he catches after his participants are done answering his questions, and we see these souls search and ponder for answers to questions they may never know the answer too.
"Grizzly Man" won the Alfred P. Sloan award at this years Sundance film festival, which goes to the film felt to tie in science and discovery into normal narrative paradigm. This film deserved it's praise and was thusly purchased for theatrical release by Lions Gate before it's release on television through Discovery films.
When you get the chance, don't just run to your local theater or television to view this masterpiece, leap and sprint. This is an important and beautiful piece, one that will touch and move all those who allow it to. This is the best of the fest in my opinion, and maybe even of the year, and it is only January.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Grizzly Man works on a lot of different levels. However, as a
recovering addict and alcoholic, what I found most interesting about
the film was how it exposed Timothy Treadwell as an addict (alcoholic)
who may have swapped his substance addiction (drugs and alcohol) for a
process addiction (gambling, sex, danger) with the bears. Like all
addicts in their disease(and not in recovery), he basically needed more
and more bear to get the same fix (high) he experienced during his
initial contact with them.
With all addictions, there is a progressive movement away from truth. As Timothy's bear addiction moved him away from reality and toward a state of "insanity." His distorted thinking becomes apparent in the footage he shot of himself (that was never aired on his TV Special, The Grizzly Diaries).
"Addictions (without recovery) are almost always progressive and fatal." -- Anne Wilson Schaef
Everything about Timothy's behavior, from the misplaced anger at the Forest Service and exaggerated paranoia about poachers, to his delusional thinking about actually being a bear, showed a person trapped in their disease and moving further away from reality.
Add to the fact, that his impaired thinking process was based upon faulty beliefs. And this is where his lack of formal training or education in zoology, or any of the natural sciences, really came back to bite him. (No pun intended).
A "non-addict" thinking person would have understood that if a male bear will kill cubs to stop a female bear from lactating so that she'll want to mate again, and that hungry bears do eat other bears to survive, that maybe they could eat me too!
Like all addicts, Timothy became progressively self-centered, isolated, paranoid, confused, controlling, perfectionist, blinded to his disease (denial), insane, blaming (projection), and dysfunctional. In short, his life had become unmanageable. And ultimately it put him, his girlfriend and at least two bears to death.
Herzog's film works as a tragedy. But also serves as a cautionary tale for all addicts, that can be summed-up by a lyric from Neil Young:
"The very thing that makes you live, can kill you in the end." -- Neil Young
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Some would like to see 'Grizzly Man' as a morality tale, with the death
of Timothy Treadwell an example for people not to follow. On the
contrary, I see Treadwell as a tragic figure, not someone to be merely
ridiculed and dismissed. Like a character in a play foreshadowing his
own downfall, Treadwell repeatedly mentions the fact that his close
proximity to the bears puts him in serious danger, and that he could be
eaten if he is not careful. What Treadwell sees as his reason for
existence and his greatest source of happiness ultimately destroys him.
Herzog portrays him as he really was, a multi-faceted, complicated man,
whose dreams sadly did not conform to our world.
It is fair to say that Treadwell was eccentric and delusional. Treadwell imagined himself as a champion and protector of the grizzlies, when in reality they were in little danger. He saw in his beloved grizzlies an idealised world of love and harmony. All the love and beauty that Treadwell thought was missing from civilisation he projected onto the bears. He was naive and delusional in that he failed to acknowledge the brutality and misery that are constants in our world. It is heartbreaking to see him encounter the half-chewed paw of a dead bear cub. Herzog's narration outlines his more pessimistic view of life and nature, where sorrow and ugliness are constants, not aberrations. Treadwell's violent death would prove Herzog right, adding to the tragedy and sadness created by this film. Treadwell was not a violent or evil man - he just didn't fit into our world. His belief that the world can be made a better place leads to his destruction. Herzog's film brilliantly captures the poignant sadness of Treadwell's death.
I like it when I do know know how to feel! Herzog seems to start out by portraying a man, Timothy Treadwell, as a crazy, self-obsessed (NOT Grizzly-obsessed) individual who gets himself and his girlfriend killed for no purpose, in the Alaskan wilderness. Initially I thought that the story was a cross between 'Jackass' and the Discovery Channel - you have a dopey, though he only sounds like it, blonde surfer type who likes to approach (awfully close) and make sweet-talk with 10-foot bears. Viewers might see Timothy as a reckless, selfish misfit, but as the film continues, your appreciation for his cause deepens - but what is his cause? Is it to work out personal demons? Absolutely. Treadwell clearly has mental/emotional problems, just listen to how many times he tells the wild animals "I love you!" or when he talks about his lack of success with "human women." But his passion for the grizzlies and their wilderness is real. Herzog particularly commends him as a filmmaker, seizing unique opportunities and rendering priceless footage. Do not forget that TT lived close to the bears for 13 years (including the year he was killed) without harm; and that his success, his careful, intuitive, loving behavior was only partly self-aggrandizing.
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