Grizzly Man (2006, Werner Herzog) – Review

A peculiar film, about a peculiar man.

This documentary follows Timothy Treadwell, a strange troubled man, who spends half of every year living alone alongside wild bears in the wilderness of Alaska and who eventually died from a bear attack.  Essentially the film is a character study, using footage filmed in Alaska by Treadwell himself along with interviews with those closest to him and narration by Herzog.

So lets start with the positives.  The footage of treadwell is engrossing, disturbing and entertaining.  He is clearly a deeply troubled man, who after a difficult life has  retreated to the wilds of Alaska and convinced himself that he is a guardian of the bears, that he must defend them.  He has given up on life in modern society and manufactured a purpose for himself out in the wild.  Watching him in the wild as he pours his soul out to his only companion (his camera), the progressive decline in his mental state and his seemingly hugely irresponsible interaction with the bears, is undoubtedly fascinating viewing.  There are small similarities to be drawn with Into The Wild, as both films deal with the idea of escape and disillusionment with  modern society.   The poster for the film is spectacular as well…

I just couldn’t get past the massive flaws in the film though.  The various interviews conducted by Herzog with those that knew Treadwell, seemed at best extremely contrived and at worst, scripted and rehearsed.  It made me question to what extent they had been told what to say, and that for me, was the killer of this documentary. It all seemed extremely unnatural.  One scene in particular, involving the Doctor who conducted the post mortem, made me feel extremely uneasy, he was clearly working from a script and overacted it in a very disturbing way.

Herzog’s narration despite being rather monotonous, was insightful and surprisingly personal, offering  a glimpse into his mind as well as that of Treadwell.

The footage of Treadwell was interesting and the film is definitely worth watching for that.  It left me thinking deeply about his character, but the interviews drastically undermine the film.  The blame for that has to be placed at Herzog’s feet.

2.5star

 

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