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USA/Germany 2005
Directed by
Werner Herzog
104 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Simone Gabriel
3.5 stars

Grizzly Man

Synopsis: Acclaimed German director, Werner Herzog, explores the life and death of amateur grizzly bear expert and wildlife preservationist, Timothy Treadwell. Using Treadwell's own documentary footage, Herzog presents a complex and compelling figure. A passionate and eccentric character, Treadwell presumed to live unarmed amongst the grizzly bears of Alaska for thirteen summers and, in doing so, 'crossed the line' between human beings and nature.

The day after seeing Grizzly Man, I met a fellow from Canada who claimed to know "all about Timothy Treadwell - that nutter, crazy-guy who believed he was a bear". My Canadian acquaintance hadn't yet seen the movie, nor did he express his desire to do so. For him, the story of Tim Treadwell was a frustrating tale of self-indulgent escapism that had somehow entered the realm of myth.

Perhaps the mythical overexposure of Treadwell for his North American counterparts is why it took a German director to realize his subject's story on the big screen. Or perhaps I should say, to realise their story. Indeed, in Werner Herzog's characteristically independent style, Grizzly Man is sometimes as much the director's story as it is Treadwell's - as we guided as we are to see with certain eyes and feel with certain hearts that mixture of amusement and sympathy for this "nutter, crazy-guy who believed he was a bear".

Get over the interjecting, heavy-German-accented narration of Herzog himself, and Grizzly Man is an engaging foray into a world of extreme environmentalism - complete with laughs aplenty thanks to original footage from Treadwell that inevitably focuses on himself - and that of the occasional bear. In this respect, the bears are almost as exciting as the dare-I-say mad naturalist who spends much of his time coming to terms with his own identity through his attempts to 'merge' with them.

From moments of warm-and-fuzzy marveling at nature, to reality-checks that wild animals are not to be messed with, Herzog's treatment of Grizzly Man presents a story that is far from mundane. Indeed Treadwell himself is as removed from 'ordinary' as one might imagine of a possibly misanthropic, paranoid, deluded fellow who spends way too much time contemplating the poo of wild beasts.

But bless him. He certainly believed he was making a difference. And thank you Mr Herzog, too. For without Grizzly Man, we might all mistakenly assume that the real version of our nursery friend still means safe and cuddly. And given the circumstances of Treadwell's death (and that of his loyal girlfriend who tried to save him) - devoured by a 1000 pound Alaskan grizzly - there is much to be said for bearing in mind (oh, how could I resist the pun?) that there is indeed a line between humans and wild nature, an invisible boundary that Mr Treadwell forcibly, irrevocably, crossed.




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