Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

This will probably be more of a discussion than a review of German director Werner Herzog’s documentary ‘Grizzly Man’, which chronicles a little bit of the life and a lot more of the death of the self-proclaimed grizzly bear protector Timothy Treadwell.  As far as the doc goes it’s a fascinating look at a life that you could argue has gone terribly wrong, or was excitingly fulfilling.  Clocking in at an hour and forty three minutes, Herzog probably could have shaved a good twenty minutes off it’s running time as it tends to meander at certain points and is prone to repetition, but it remains fascinating despite its minor flaws.

Timothy Treadwell was nuts.  That’s about as subtly as I can put it.  A failed actor who allegedly was up for the part of ‘Woody’ in Cheers, Treadwell found that his most effective way of dealing with people was through the eyes of a liquor bottle.  The series of events that lead Timothy Treadwell to the wilds of an Alaskan wildlife reserve where he would spend 13 summers living with grizzly bears is never quite made clear.  What is clear is that he credits the grizzlies with cleaning him up and keeping him sober.  He promised the bears that he will stay clean and sober for them and continue to protect them for all they have done for him.  Timothy Treadwell was nuts.

Timothy Treadwell also had a couple of nice Sony video cameras, and captured over 100 hours of astonishing footage of bears in their natural habitat.  Though a failed filmmaker, Treadwell definitely had a filmmakers sensibility in the framing of the shots he took and was methodical in his details, doing take after take of dialog, never quite

satisfied with what he had done in the previous take.  One of what I suspect was Treadwell’s favorite was a lovingly videotaped image of a huge mound of bear poop.  What was obvious to me as we observed the bear poop were the large variety of items sticking out of it, letting me know that bears will obviously eat anything.  People included.  Just because you give a 10 foot tall, 1500 pound beast with three inch teeth and two inch talons a cute name like Mr. Chocolate, doesn’t make it cute.  Timothy Treadwell was most certainly nuts.

Treadwell’s camera was running while he and his girlfriend were being mauled and eaten by the bear, though the lens cap was on.  All that was left was the audio, which by all accounts is horrible to listen too.  We are allowed to witness director Herzog pained expression while listening to the last moments of Treadwells’ life and the odd Medical Examiners vivid description of the tape as well, which was more than enough for me.   Various interviews with local ecologist, the pilot, Treadwell’s friends and those opposed to what he was doing helped flesh out the insanity that was Timothy Treadwell.  As horribly as he died, watching this doc, one suspects he wouldn’t have had it any other way.  His girlfriend, Ann Hugenard, is another story since she is on record for being afraid of the bears and no one can quite figure out why she stuck with that nut as long as she did. 

How Timothy Treadwell managed to survive thirteen years doing what he did is the true mystery.  Over and over he would yell to his unseen audience how we would die if we tried to do what he is doing, and I suspect he is absolutely correct.  If a lunatic can be admired, then Treadwell is the one for doing what he wanted to do with his life.  The shame is that Anne Hugenard had to die trying to save the man from what he gave his own life to protect.

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