Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Review: Grizzly Man

Bears have fascinated terrified me since a canoe trip on which my cousin Hee Haw and I trembled from midnight to dawn when we mistook the snoring of a fellow camper for the snuffing of a black bear. So it was with some anticipation that I finally picked up Grizzly Man, Werner Herzog’s documentary about Timothy Treadwell’s life and eventual death with grizzly bears. Treadwell, a failed actor and a deeply disturbed man, escaped his real world troubles by camping for 13 summers on the Alaskan peninsula where he observed, named, and even touched the bears. Herzog combines Treadwell's own footage with interviews to tell his story and determine how, after so many years without incident, he stayed one night too many.

I’ve read reviews that focus on the tragic death of a gentle man and his girlfriend, but I felt the movie underscored Treadwell’s hypocrisy. He claimed to protect the bears, but he films photographers provoking a grizzly with rocks for a better picture and does nothing to intervene. Ironically, the recovery of his own remains necessitated the dispatch of two bears by park rangers. Far from protecting the bears, his actions are more accurately described as disturbing and, sometimes, molesting them.

As a character, Treadwell’s incessant baby talk and navel-gazing make him exceedingly irritating. I became so tired of his babbling that I (coldly) wondered why the bears put up with him for as long as they did. The Timothy Treadwell story is tragic – tragic in his wanton disrespect for the wild, tragic in exposing his girlfriend to a menace he didn’t really understand himself, and tragic in the failure of his family and friends to recognize the psychopathy that brought about his gory demise. Because Grizzly Man is certain to elicit strong emotions and more than a few Google searches, on a go/no-go scale, I give it a “go”.

2 comments:

SGT DUB said...

I read one article where the bears describe Timothy as a bit gamey and a nice spicy mustard would have helped. sorry, I couldn't resist.

David said...

I've no doubt that it was an insubstantial meal, but it was subsequently more peaceful on the peninsula.