Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Just Watched: Grizzly Man

Grizzly Man  

Ostensibly this is a documentary about Timothy Treadwell, a man who lived among wild bears in Alaska and who in the end was killed by the bears.  It is a visually beautiful but tragic tale told with compassion and respect for both the bears and Treadwell.  But ultimately this is a documentary about an obsessive filmmaker by a an obsessive filmmaker.  If you know anything about Herzog's previous films like Aguirre, the Wrath of God or Fitzcarraldo it's hard not draw parallels and to see Timothy Treadwell as both a Kinski-esque madman and Herzog himself.

Timothy Treadwell shot much of the footage seen in the film and it's breathtaking stuff.   The intimacy he shares with the bears and other animals around him is amazing.   It's impossible to not describe his actions as reckless and borderline insane but at the same time he gets such joy from the animals that you grow to understand him; he was a man living on the true edge both physically and metaphorically. 

The Herzog footage primarily consists of interviews with Treadwell's friends and the people involved with the aftermath of the attack.  Though Treadwell captured audio of the attack we are saved from having to listen to it.  We do get to hear one of the pathologists who examined the bodies and who listened to the tape describe it's contents however and we watch as Herzog listens to it in headphones and is obviously emotionally affected.  It's powerful stuff.  

I rank this among my favorite documentaries of all time.   It's a nature film and a psychological investigation into obsession, madness and film making.  Films this good are rare. 
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