Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005)

Do I consider Timothy Treadwell’s gruesome death a tragedy?  Of course.  Do I sympathize with him or find myself on his side?  Hell no.  As much as I love and respect nature, and as heartless as it may sound, the man had it coming.  Sure a love for nature is all well and good, but there’s a fine line between that and abandoning any sense of reality and kinship with one’s species, which is where Treadwell found himself.  There came a point where he transitioned from respecting nature to becoming a man-child with a god complex, thinking he himself could take on his own species and “become” nature itself, losing himself in animals whose danger he couldn’t, or more likely wouldn’t, recognize.  He was reckless in putting too much trust in animals that he thought he could single-handedly protect (obviously a dream reeking of naivety), and also something of a hypocrite in trying to affect nature itself and the bears’ natural way of life, when really those natives may’ve really been onto something with the idea of simply respecting nature and its wide range of species by keeping one’s distance and letting nature take its course.  Timothy Treadwell, throughout this film and throughout his life, had one big identity crisis, and even though he found his passion in the form of bears, his inability to understand both his own species and his adopted species led to his downfall, which to me was absolutely inevitable.

Clearly I’ve formed an opinion on Timothy Treadwell.  Werner Herzog has not.  This is why Grizzly Man is so effective as a documentary.  One of the few things Herzog actually passes judgment on, in fact, is the simple concept of how tragic such a horrific death is (notably with Herzog’s wise and respectful decision to conceal from the viewer the audio recording of Timothy and Amie’s deaths).  The lifestyle that led to those deaths, and just what went through Treadwell’s mind (deteriorating mind, I’d say), are simply shown as they are, for the viewer to pass judgment.  Obviously I’d hope anybody watching this movie would recognize Treadwell as a sick man with a sick and ridiculous goal, and perhaps even Herzog portrays his life and death with a feeling of disappointment and even pity, but he doesn’t force the issue or a specific point of view of the subject either.  Ultimate judgment on Timothy Treadwell is in the footage (with a hint of Herzog’s bleak view on both the beauty and destructiveness of nature), and most of that judgment of a most unnatural life will come from the viewer, with that footage pretty much acting as a catalyst.


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