Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Grizzly Man

Grizzly Man is a documentary by legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog. I have not seen any Herzog films prior to this, but it was the subject that drew me to this one: Timothy Treadwell, a man who lived 24/7 with grizzly bears for 13 years. I seem to recall reading bits of a Vanity Fair article on this chap a few years ago. I learned from that story, just as viewers of this film do within very few minutes, that the man was, indeed, eventually killed in a bear attack, along with his girlfriend Amy Huguenard, who was with him on location.

Synopsis: The film shares with us footage shot by Treadwell over the course of his time with these magnificent animals at an Alaskan reserve. And through the footage we glean that this was a passionate man who cared deeply for animals of all sorts, but especially bears. It also seems that perhaps Treadwell had a not-quite-complete grasp of reality as regards his place in the bear kingdom and the human kingdom. Truthfully he didn't really fit in either place.

Review: This is a touching movie, but it's not a Kleenex-fest. Anyone who feels any empathy towards animals will relate, on some level, to Treadwell. But it's also clear that perhaps he didn't always handle things in the best way. The footage is out of this world, and Treadwell is a funny guy, so there is comedy there, too. The chief problem is probably Herzog, who is simply not a good documentarian (whereas, ironically, Treadwell could have been a great one). On a trivial note, his accent is so heavy that it sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger is doing the narration at times, and it comes across as too severe for the footage. Some of the set-ups and interviews ring a little false and too staged. But these pale when compared to his final fatal flaw. Audio footage of the killing of Treadwell and Amy exists; Herzog listens to this but does not share with us. Okay, perhaps we don't want to hear it anyway -- after all, it's not going to be fun. BUT, he then proceeds to tell the owner of the tape, Treadwell's ex-girlfriend, that SHE SHOULD DESTROY IT. Mary, mother of God, are these the words of a documentarian?! What sort of ridiculous advice is that? Grrrr.

The score: I really liked this film, despite the director's shortcomings. It's worth watching if you get the chance. I'll give it 72 out of 100.