Saturday, December 31, 2005

GRIZZLY MAN

The Timothy Treadwell Myth Grizzly Man movie Directed by Werner Herzog
Starring Timothy Treadwell
Reviewed by Byron Merritt

UNDECIDED...

DOCUMENTARY FILM REVIEW RATING: UNDECIDED...

GRIZZLY MAN is an intriguing and deeply disturbing look at one young man’s end of life experiences in the far reaches of the Alaskan wilderness, living, "working," and isolating himself with the most deadly creatures on Earth: the Grizzly Bear.

Timothy Treadwell is this man, and although the documentary takes on the initial look and feel of a nature film, it is anything but. Tim, as we come to know him, is the focus of this strangely watchable documentary, inserting himself in almost every shot and speaking about how he’s there to "protect" the bears (even though he spends much of his time in a National Park where they’re protected anyway), to bond with them (a definite no-no as we learn through the film’s machinations), and to rant about the outside world and how they (we) don’t understand what he’s trying to do out there.

For those looking for a feel-good documentary about a man living with bears in a beautiful landscape, you’d best look elsewhere.

To me, this film showed how a man with an obvious mental illness can become so obsessed with an idea ("loving" the bears) that it ends up killing him. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy nature films as much as the next person, but I think if you’re looking for information about Grizzlies and how to interact with them, this just ain’t the film to watch. Tim constantly puts himself in harms way and even goes so far as to take a dip (swim) with a Grizzly, and then proceeds to pet it! He turns his back on the bears and hides his tent in brambles, a risky way to camp in Grizzly country.


The mental illness aspect of Tim’s psyche was smackingly obvious to me. The man’s preconceptions of right and wrong were very bizarre. Initially he praises the park service, but later rants about them and their "F-ing" policies. He becomes paranoid about everyone and everything, moving his camp into dangerous areas. He befriends every animal as if it had human qualities, even some pretty cute little foxes, and tells them how he "loves" them and won’t let anything happen to them (I’ve never heard a man say "I love you" more often to animals than Tim). How about loving the race you belong to? You know, the human race?

But even with all these issues, the film pulls you in in a very strange fashion, and this can be two-fold depending on your stance on certain nature issues; some (like me) wanted to scream at the screen and warn Tim about what he was doing and how it would all end if he didn’t take precautions (he does get killed and eaten by a bear in the end, by the way); others might say, "go ahead, let him get killed. Who cares."

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