Saturday, February 28, 2009

Grizzly Man

"I believe the common character of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder." Werner Herzog.

I don't watch a lot of documentaries. I've seen a couple, but none well known or very memorable(with the exception being last year's Man on Wire). I have just never been one of those people who really get into documentaries. So to see a movie like this is such a revelation for me, because I thought docs were just people telling a story to the camera, the strength of the doc being what they were saying. This is really a compilation of images, clips, and interviews, all trying to grasp at something.

This movie could have gone a lot of ways with the Timothy Treadwell story. It could have explored Treadwell's fight against the government or people trying to kill the bears in the wilderness. He could explore just what Timothy did in the wilderness. But Herzog is doing something else, something much more interesting. He seems to be grasping for something, looking for the drive that Timothy Treadwell had in him to live among what Herzog thinks is a very destructive landscape. He is circling Timothy's character through Timothy's friends, his parents, people who thought he was nuts, his archival footage, and himself.
Herzog doesn't let this become a talking head doc. He does make himself acknowledged by not placing the camera directly on a close-up of someone or by having it in the same place every time they speak. He also makes himself acknowledged in the conversation once or twice, but doesn't get involved other then the compiling of footage and the voice-over narration.

And Herzog pulls it off really well. He puts great clips of Timothy, each one focusing on him more then the bears(you'll notice there are a lot of foxes, more then you would've thought, I think because Timothy cannot get as intimate with bears as he can with foxes.) and the strange drive that caused him to live in the wilderness on end. We get little tidbits from Timothy's life, each one adding to the next, giving us a picture of him and yet really leaving us with nothing but our own thoughts.

Verdict: The first doc I can really recommend to people. Fantastic.


  1. Graham,

    this is easily one of my favorite documentaries. I find Treadwell's story fascinating and incredibly sad. Ultimately, though, his self-righteous and naive actions led to not only his own demise, but that of his girlfriend.

    Great review.


  2. Ps. If you are looking for good, non-boring documentaries, may I suggest the following:

    Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired
    Unknown White Male
    My Kid Count Paint That

  3. I've heard of roman polanski and My kid could paint that, but not of the others. What are they about?