Grizzly Man

Year: 2005

Writer/Director: Werner Herzog

Budget: ?

Gross: $3 174 085


timothy treadwell spent the last 13 years of his life living and camping among the grizzly bears in alaska for months at a time without any weapons. in october 2003 he and his girlfriend amie huguenard were killed by a bear...

treadwell also did a lot of video recording during the last years of his expeditions and what werner herzog had access to was over 100 hours of timothy's footage. from all that and with the addition of interviews he did, he made Grizzly Man. what i found so interesting about the film - besides timothy and what he did for all those years - was the film making itself.

with so much footage of timothy and the bears and the landscape you know there were probably 5 or 10 films that could have been made, and from a film lovers perspective i am always interested in the one that is - as well as the ones that weren't.

what herzog does is present us with timothy and also present us with an analysis of treadwell and a character study that comes across as accurate and fair. herzog injects himself into the film on numerous occasions with his narration and in person. in one scene he listens to the audio recording that was made, by chance, during the bear attack that killed tim and amie. he is obviously deeply effected by it and tells the woman (a friend and ex of treadwells) to never listen to it and to even destroy it.

i have to say that at first, when i heard herzog doing the narration and injecting his analysis into his interpretation of what he saw on all the footage and what he got from all the interviews, i wasn't sure if i liked it. i wasn't sure it was the right film making technique for the film. however, that unsureness disappeared real quick. there is a real sense that herzog understands tredwell, but the film never becomes about that - it always remains about timothy and the bears. about how this troubled man's life was changed by his time with the bears and how they were really the only thing he ever really cared about and the one thing - sadly and ironically - he was willing to die for.

herzog provides us with a pretty full look at his main character. the way you look at treadwell at the begining of the film will probably not be the same as the way you see him at the end. not that you will like him or dislike him more or less, but more that your understanding of him as a complete human being - and not just a quirky character - will be enhanced as the film progresses.

it was also interesting to see some of the footage through herzogs eyes as a filmmaker who has been making movies and telling stories for so many years. Herzog points out the numerous takes that treadwell would make for certain shots and various speaches/narrations tim would make to the camera (treadwell started filming his time with the grizzlys in the hopes that he could educate the world about the animals he so dearly loved).

herzog uses this footage and many of the "outtakes" to expand on is understanding of treadwell and also to make some interesting points about film making in general... at one point herzog points out a shot of treadwell finishing one of his speaches to the camera and then when the take was over just waiting in the field when all of a sudden there came, into the shot, some foxes that tim had befriended. it was a beautiful and genuine moment that herzog points out happened in the lingering time after the "shot/scene" was already over.... then to almost mirror that statement, herzog does the same thing in a scene he films of the coroner presenting treadwell's watch to his ex-girlfriend/friend/employee. when the presentation is over and both parties seem to be looking at the director, as if to say "is that okay? is it done?", but herzog keeps the cameras rolling and catches a genuine reaction and emotional moment from the woman.

the film had some good word of mouth back in 2005, and over $3 million gross isn't bad for a documentary. however, if you haven't seen it yet, this is one to check out.