Bear-Like (2019) Poster


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Entertaining nature documentary, not particularly scientific, but still good enough
Horst_In_Translation15 October 2020
Warning: Spoilers
"Der Bär in mir", which means "The bear in me", is a Swiss nature documentary and from the poster here on imdb and also from the title, you can easily see what animal these 1.5 hours are about. This award-winning film already premiered back in 2019, but it took until now (late 2020) for the film to reach theaters and general audiences. At least here in Germany. This delay is probably also linked to corona. But the wait is worth it for sure. I enjoyed the watch quite a bit. Writer and director Roman Droux from Switzerland was present during my screening as it was sort of the German premiere and he answered some questions in the end too, which was nice. By the way, I felt he looks a lot like Woody Harrelson. Just me probably. The protagonist you see constantly on the screen here is David Bittner. Interestingly enough, these two already worked together on a film almost a decade earlier. A much shorter film, but still this connection exists for a while already it seems. I am not surprised by Droux's words that he worked several years on this new movie going through hundreds and hundreds (if not thousands) hours of footage. By the way, the language in here is not as Swiss German as it seems perhaps. The narration is "normal" German. Bittner talks in Swiss German, but thhe accent is not too heavy and easy to understand. There are not really any other people in here, so despite being made in Alaska, there is not really any English language. I think Droux said something like that he worked in the sound department earlier in his career, but maybe I got that wrong because his body of work shows that he worked in all kinds of fields, but not explicitly there. Also it surprised me a bit that he said that he has not necessarily been active in nature documentaries because there is nothing else here in his body of work. It seemed nonetheless that he was way more prolific than you could think from what is listed here in his filmography. I am pretty convinced this is nowhere near accurate and complete and there is a lot missing. Luckily, his new film here is not missing at all and that is a good thing for sure. I think this can be quite a success overall. We'll see. At least I hope so because it would not be undeserving.

Maybe I will be a bit crucial how you perceive Bittner in terms of how much you like the overall film. I mean he seems to be like a bit of a quirky character and some of the stuff he said felt staged, but maybe he just really is like that. Also it surprised me at the end when on one occasion he was shown as a really quiet and sensitive character, pretty much the opposite of what we saw earlier. But I found him likable enough, no matter if he was authentic all the time or sometimes not entirely. There was a lont done right with this film. It does not really serve as a biology documentary or anything. Or only as a side factor. It is more about making a connection with the audience, getting them emotionally involved. The bears get names, we see some of them suffer and feel with them. Others we see doing well. Balu and Luna were at the center of the story with ho they were gone for a while. Of course debatable if it was really such a happy ending that they found Balu on their last day or so, Luna a little earlier. So I do believe it was a bit scripted. Not sure how much though. A lot of it is authentic without a doubt. There was just one lengthy sequence that felt a bit much, namely when we see from the memory card that a bear stole a camera and took it to the water, but as we see him, he is filmed with another camera, which I have no idea how that can be explained. And briefly afterwards, how we have Bittner tell the camera that there are cubs playing in the water nearby was also a bit of a huge coincidence. Even if it may be harsh, another thing I liked about the outcome here is that it felt natural. We see many animals die or about to die. Be it salmon, be it the thin female bear with the cub, be it the bear who is basically a stash for weaker times (that was rough! I had no idea they did that), be it the injured cub that is first left alone and later we hear it being killed during the night or be it a porcupine), nature is dangerous and we find out here for sure too. There are sweeter, lighter moments, but it is simply a good mixture overall. The danger component is also depicted accurately. There is an early mention of Treadwell. We see on one occasion the protagonist pretty shaken when an unknown really big bear shows up and we see what really hungry bears are doing when they are desperate. Take the porcupine. Or take the cannibal aspect. There are more examples. You can never be 100% sure as a human when you are near bears, even if most of the time it seems pretty harmless. However, with all the more worrying aspects, we should not forget about the lighter sequences, like the two younger bears who are more courageous, boastful almost, in each other's company. Or the really old bear, I think Oliver is his name, who was once the leader, but now a younger stronger bear took over, but the old fella still hangin' in there. It's these stories that make the film eventually and that is okay because a really scientific movie hardly would have told us anything we did not know. Or at least that science did not know, so maybe it would have felt reptitive to some. The actual outcome is that these 90 minutes work so well because they are fictionalized a bit and the stories told can certainly also entertain younger audiences, so it is perfectly fine to bring your kids to watch this one. Besides, one thing I did not say at all so far is that obviously these little bear cubs are the absolute epitome of cuteness. And the big ones are beautiful of course too. Maybe not the deepest documentary, but in my opinion still a contender for best 2019 documentary, although I am certainly a bit baised there because I generally like nature documentaries, especially animal documentaries. So if you do as well, then absolutely go for this one. Unless you hate bears or so. But why would anybody. That was pretty great, maybe even great enough to get you into the fascinating subject of bears if you haven't had much interest before already. Easy thumbs-up and a most positive recommendation here.
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