Friday, December 23, 2005

Grizzly Man

Sometimes you eat the bear, other times......
Grizzly man is Werner Herzog's fascinating documentary on the life of Timothy Treadwell. Treadwell is the man who lived amongst Grizzly Bears for 13 summers. He was an amatuer wildlife and bear preservationist, who along with his girlfriend, was unfortunately killed by the bears he was staying with in Alaska's Katmai National Park.
Most of the movie is footage shot by Treadwell himself as he observed, and mingled with the bears in their natural habitat. The documentary is interesting because it shows two sides of Treadwell's passion.
One side is the man's affection and obvious love for the bears. He claimed to be protecting the bears, and also using his experiences and footage to educate people on the lives of the Grizzly Bear.
The other side is the darker, more disturbing idea of his vanity, which showed Treadwell's fight against his inner demons, which seemed to push him closer and closer to danger amoungst the wild bears.
Herzog does a wonderful job staying objective with his character study of the man. He presents both sides of Treadwell. and the various arguments pro and con for his work.
If the viewer wants to condemn the man, all they have to do is point to Treadwell's seemingly, uneducated, reckless encounters with the bears, not to mention his emotional rants against the government, park services, and even other preservationists.
If the viewer wants to praise the man. One can point to his educational sessions with children, his honest devotion, and affection for the bears, and the fond memories of his friends.
Personally, I was struck by the devotion, and passion he showed for the bears, but seeing his footage and hearing from the man himself, I found myself questioning his motives for his so called studies.
First of all, I didn't see anything groundbreaking or even productive about his studies. To me it seemed like most of his energy went into seeing how close he could get to the bears. Almost like a daredevil who is constantly pushing himself to jump farther and higher, in search of finding his limits. And no matter what his supporters say, the man did enjoy the attention he gained from his experiences, so much so, that often times his work resembled a vain cry for attention.
In all honesty, the man was not Jane Goodall, he was not scientifically researching, and observing the bears.
I also don't see the advantage of desensitizing bears to human contact. Nothing good can from that. There is nothing scientifically productive to having bears mingle with humans. There is also plenty of evidence to suggest that the bears were not in any unusual amount of danger of poaching or human explotation, as Treadwell claims. If anything the bears themselves would be the culprits of killing their own species, albeit due to starvation caused by humanity's neglect of nature. (Which is a different argument altogether.) Than there is the unforgiveable death of his girlfriend, who was terrified by the bears, and had even threatened to break up with Treadwell because of his dark side.
But ultimately, that's all just opinion.
The movie does a fantastic job of leaving it up to one's own beliefs. Make sure to check this film out if you have the chance. It comes out on DVD on December 27th.
It's a fascinating look into an unusual man's life, told by a master storyteller.

1 comment:

Lons said...

Nice review. This is clearly one of the year's most interesting films. Herzog's selection of revealing clips of Treadwell is completely inspired.

I thought it might actually be the year's BEST film, but tonight I saw the intensely brilliant "Munich," so now all bets are off...