Wednesday, March 3

Review: Grizzly Man

"Timothy Treadwell (April 29, 1957 – October 5, 2003) was an American bear enthusiast, environmentalist, amateur naturalist, eco-warrior and documentary film maker. He lived among the coastal grizzly bears of Katmai National Park in Alaska, USA, for approximately 13 seasons. At the end of his 13th season in the park in 2003, he and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard were killed and partially devoured by one or possibly two grizzly bears." (Source: Wikipedia)

Okay, so now you know what happened to Timothy Treadwell. What do you think of him?

The funny thing about this story is that people immediately form an opinion when they hear or read it. Either they feel sorry for this martyr of the environment, or they snarl and think he is an idiot who had it coming. And this is often the point of a documentary: convince people of one side of the argument or another. And you might think that Grizzly Man wants to convince you of his ideas. But that is where the movie shines: in letting it's verdict in the middle.

Werner Herzog, who made this film, seems to have a thing for weirdo's. And I don't people who collect everything remotely related to Star Wars. No, Werner makes movies about those half mad, half brilliant types. Oddballs with a passion. The people who either become world famous or fizzle away without ever being noticed. People without compromise. People who have a passion for which they are willing to give up everything. People who would pull a steamship over a mountain, build teardrop-shaped balloons to fly over the South-American jungles or spends years of their lives to investigate the coldest and least hospitable place on earth.

What makes Herzog such an unique filmmaker is that he doesn't try to hide the batshit insanity of his subjects. Playing with and stroking wild bears and foxes might be adorable, but it's also really fucking dangerous. Treadwell's intentions might have been good, but you can't escape the fact that he is dead. Herzog doesn't romanticize his life and death. He doesn't judge it. And doesn't just show it either.

He discusses it.

Herzog himself voice-overs the film. He tells you about Treadwell. He praises him for his skills and dedication, but also how he was being inconsiderate and downright stupid for doing some of the things he did. And you don't even have to agree with him. He voice-overs in the first person, making it personal commentary. You're not forced in any train of thought. You can make up your own mind about Treadwell and what Herzog thinks of him. This way, the movie becomes a three-part discussion between the viewer, the filmmaker and the subject. And this is not even the most important part of the film.

Imagine that: a matter of narration which is pretty unique in itself, but the film never seems to brag about it. There are other matters at hand here.

The film might not have been the greatest documentary I've ever seen, but it is unique in the way films should be unique: by challenging what you think you know about films and still being good.


I couldn't include anything other than this song.

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