Grizzly Man
I’m sure they just want to say hello.

Golden Mug

NOMINEE: Documentary

Theatrical Release Date: 08/12/2005
Director: Werner Herzog

Another documentary down my gullet today. I had been waiting for “Grizzly Man” to be released for a few months now, ever since I first saw the trailers. From the snippets included in them, it’s clear that the man director Werner Herzog chose to examine was a few quarts low. What do you suppose is going to happen when you spend summer after summer in ultra-close proximity to Alaskan grizzly bears? The answer should not surprise you. However, if you’re not sure, go ahead and try it out for yourself. The world can do without one more idiot.

I don’t mean to sound too harsh of “Grizzly Man”’s protagonist, Timothy Treadwell. He devoted his life to protecting bears and creating a greater public awareness for them and their needs. It’s a noble idea but it seems that Treadwell slipped further and further away into crazy town each year he made his expedition with the bears.

In the film, you see Treadwell’s descent into madness, for lack of a better term. He exhibits classic bipolar symptoms and a God complex to rival Charlton Heston. It’s at times terrifying, while also sometimes hilarious. But the laughter is uneasy. You’re not sure how to feel about it. Are you laughing “with” or “at” Timothy Treadwell?

This created mixed feelings while watching the film, as I know the footage I was being shown was edited down from 100 hours by Herzog. His commentary during the film, while normally even handed and narrative in nature, takes a few turns towards editorial and judgmental. He openly disagrees with some of the statements Treadwell makes. I prefer my documentaries a bit more objective.

Adding to the blurred line of documentary / editorial piece, were the other people in the film who provided background information and anecdotes. Each had their own peccadilloes and perspective on Treadwell’s chosen path as bear protector. They seemed like characters from Northern Exposure or some other small mountain town TV show.

All in all, it was an interesting and thought-provoking documentary. There are moments and ideas that Treadwell expresses that are truly fascinating. But at the same time, I spent the entire film wondering how much it would take for myself or someone I know to withdraw so much from society to undertake such a personal mission.

I could have done without Herzog’s personal feelings but I do recommend this film. A 3 out of 5, make a drinking game out of this one and take a sip from your 6-pack of Old Style each time Treadwell does something you think will get him mauled. Don’t take too big of a pull, there are plenty of opportunities.