Few documentaries really engage me these days, but "Grizzly Man" is one of those films.
Perhaps you've heard about Timothy Treadwell, a bear activist who spent many years living alongside grizzly bears in Alaska until he stayed one day too long and, along with his girlfriend Amie Huguenard, was eaten by one. "Grizzly Man," directed and narrated by Werner Herzog, combines interviews and archival footage to show what drove Treadwell and offers up some explanations as to why he risked his life.
As documentaries should, the movie offers up a balanced view of Treadwell, a man who loved the creatures he lived with so much that'd he'd do anything for them. He viewed himself as their protector, but as he became more passionate about the subject many say he crossed the line. Some say that by living with the bears he made them accustomed to humans when they shouldn't be, and his complete disregard for laws and his own safety resulted in his own downfall. On top of everything else, Treadwell definitely had some mental problems - as the movie shows, he was quite a nutjob.
"Grizzly Man" is captivating on so many levels. It's amazing to see wild grizzlies up close and a human being all but hugging them. They are magnificent creatures, even if they can be dangerous, as to simply see them in nature is something. Then, to have a man who cares so much about them is pretty impressive; Treadwell talks with them like they're pets, and seems completely oblivious to how deadly they can be even when he says so out loud. As the movie progresses, our image of Treadwell gets more and more skewed, as isolation and his unprecedented love for the bears take their toll. He goes on several rants, many quite extreme, about various subjects. The movie also explores his psychological history to explain why he did the things he did.
The movie only stumbles in one sequence, where a medical examiner explains in great detail what he thinks happened to Treadwell and Huguenard in their last moments. I couldn't tell whether this guy was for real or not, but his speech sounded dramatized and scripted. The scene seemed completely out-of-place, though perhaps this was to make up for Herzog's decision not to include the audio tape of Treadwell's last moments. This might sound a bit sick, but I got so involved with the film that I would have liked to hear it.
"Grizzly Man" is a captivating film that explores nature and its effect on man. Within the movie you can literally watch Treadwell spiral out of control, ultimately ending in his death.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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