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Grizzly Man

Werner Herzog's 2005 documentary about the life and death of Timothy Treadwell.

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Grizzly Man - 2005

  • Aug 14, 2008
  • by
Pros: interesting study

Cons: ..

The Bottom Line: “They call me Grizzly Bear they say I'm kooky and square
They can say anything they want about me I don't care I don't care”
~ Shel Silverstein

This movie reminded me a lot of Into The Wild; perhaps because they were both based in Alaska and both dealt with solitary humans seeking to breech the gap between civilization and wilderness. Unlike Christopher McCandless, Timothy Treadwell had an agenda that he felt served the beasts that roam this wilderness, mainly the bears. Both were slightly mad, bordering on insane at times.

Whereas McCandless walked into the wild to remove himself from the everyday life, Treadwell spent over a decade dedicating his life to the preservation of the grizzly bear. On occasion he had someone accompany him, as he did on his final journey, but, for the most part, he entered this land and spent a solitary season living in close conjunction to the bears. He knew each nuance and attitude of these creatures and had named them, mainly on their attitude or some other memorable thing about them.

It is not my place to say either man was wrong in what they chose to do with their lives. What is unfortunate is the fact that they forgot that they were living in the wilderness, among the wild, and they let their guard down at the wrong time and in the wrong place.

While the movie Into The Wild detailed the life and death of McCandless, the story Grizzly Man is almost a docudrama. Most of the footage was from the archives of Treadwell outlining his daily life among the bears. A good deal of it was narrated by writer/director Werner Herzog with his own intervening footage to fill in the voids left by Treadwell.

Like Jon Krakauer, Herzog introduced his own feelings and interpretations into the story. Perhaps, like Krakauer, it was too much and detracted from the tragic story and the insanity of it, rather than adding any real value. On the other hand, without his dogged interference into this study, the true brilliance and insanity of Timothy Treadwell would have died along with his body. So, while he intersperses so much of his own character into this film, he also gives the story the edgy disturbance it deserves.

The camera work, since it was mostly shot by Treadwell with a tripod, wasn’t always the best. Not that there was a loss of focus for, in reality, everything was clear and precise generally. There was just a sort of choppiness to it that often distracted. Then again, you have to remember some of the footage was done while he was in transit, so you could expect erratic camera work.

To Treadwell there was nothing as serene or peaceful than the face of one of his favorite bears. He saw extreme beauty and served with almost awe like dedication to these creatures. Unfortunately, he failed to remember that he was the interloper into their land and their world. Even though they had grown amazingly accustomed to his presence, almost in an offhand manner, they were still, indeed, wild beasts. When he described a favorite and showed footage of the animal, you could see the beauty he witnessed. However, when Herzog shot footage of his own, with a closeup, you recognized the power and wildness for what it was.

Apparently, at the end, the camera continued to record the final minutes of Treadwell & Amie Huguenard’s lives as they were attacked and killed by the strange, new bear. It is one of God’s miracles that the lenscap remained in place on the camera and no one ever had to view this horrible sight. Unfortunately, the sound continued to capture all the horror one could ever imagine. The tape is in the possession of one of Treadwell’s good friends. The medical examiner said he listened to the tape and it was one of the most devastating things he had ever heard. Herzog, himself, listened to the tape and advised her to never listen to it and said she should destroy it.

I am completely torn about this movie. It is beautiful in its wildness and inept camera work. On the other hand, it shows a man that is clearly bordering on insanity yet he his held in the highest regard because of the good he did accomplish. While not with the bears, he traveled to schools to educate the young about bears, appeared on national television, co-authored a book and eventually help found a grassroots organization to protect bears in their natural habitat.

Overall impression
This was a surprising film that both drew interest and repelled the watcher. You are torn between the insanity and the brilliance of Treadwell. This movie garnered 18 award nominations, winning 12. Quite decent for a small Indy film. Some of the language is raw so it probably wouldn’t serve to let children watch the film but I wouldn’t shy away from introducing them to the Treadwell legacy of bears.



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More Grizzly Man reviews
review by . February 21, 2010
Grizzly Man - yes the title of the movie is exactly what it is about - a man who went to live with grizzly bears each summer: living among them, talking to them, and starting to believe he was one of them.      Only in death did he learn that he was still human, and no match for a hungry bear desperate for food in advance of hibernation.      I found the story to be quite controversial - was the protagonist, Timothy Treadwell, a hero for "protecting" …
review by . July 29, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Fascinating documentary
 For thirteen summers, Timothy Treadwell lived among the wild grizzly bears of Alaska. An untrained but fervent bear-lover, he took his videos and message of bear preservation to schools during his off-season. This documentary alternates Treadwell's footage with interviews of his friends, family, and co-workers.      The result is a portrait of a man with a childlike enthusiasm and certainty that he could live with the bears as one of them. He also comes across as a …
Quick Tip by . February 24, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Intriguing documentary by Werner Herzog about a man whose fascination with grizzly bears borders on psycotic and leads to tragedy
Quick Tip by . February 23, 2010
This documentary is a riveting portrait of an outdoorsman who pushed the boundaries too far with tragic results. Intense and captivating.
review by . June 01, 2006
Pros: Beautiful Alaskan Frontier, bizzare and unforgettable story line     Cons: amateur filming, disturbing      The Bottom Line: Interesting but troubled account of Timothy Treadwell and his sad but predictable demise.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. What a sad documentary this was. Of course, knowing what happened to Tim and his "grizzly" death makes this film hard to watch. His repeated …
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About this movie


Grizzly Man is a 2005 American documentary film by German director Werner Herzog. It chronicles the life and death of bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell. The film consists of Treadwell's own footage of his interactions with grizzly bears before he and his girlfriend were killed and eaten by a bear in 2003, and of interviews with people who knew or were involved with Treadwell. The footage he shot was later found, and the final film was co-produced by Discovery Docs, the Discovery Channel's theatrical documentary unit, and Lions Gate Entertainment. The film's soundtrack is by British singer songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson.
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Director: Werner Herzog
Genre: Documentary, Biographical Films
Release Date: August 12, 2005
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Werner Herzog
Runtime: 1hr 40min
Studio: Lions Gate Films, Discovery Docs
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