Cinema Signal:
Among Grizzlies:
Living with Wild Bears in Alaska
Timothy Treadwell & Jewel Palovak

. "Grizzly Man"

The collection of subjects that have been embraced by writer-director Werner Herzog add up to what some might consider singular and strange, and slightly morbid. He now follows up his sometimes humorous mockumentary treatment of the Loch Ness monster myth, ("Incident at Loch Ness") slithering marine creature and all, with an attempt to mythologize a man who thought it more desirable to die by grizzly bear than face life without the notoriety his perceived risks brought him.

To make certain that his mission survived him and was provable, Timothy Treadwell not only lived among the grizzly bears on the Katmai National Park and Preserve on the Alaska Peeninsula, but shot endless footage to record his proximity to the animals and to put together some kind of comprehensible narrative about the drama in his mind. For 13 summers the animals allowed him his space, for the most part, unmolested. But the last visit put an end to the adventure. It was late in the season. Most of the bears that knew and tolerated him were in their hibernation caves. Only wilder and more unpredictable ones still prowled the reserve and fished the rivers for salmon.

One of these took the misguided human who saw himself as a protector and some kind of hero with a purpose in life. But the man was no scientist. This was not National Geographic. This was the task a completely self-absorbed and somewhat disturbed individual assigned himself craving the high of public attention. Treadwell died at 46.

His own rambling footage is replete with the symptomatic behavior with which a therapist could have a field day. Treadwell's manner is effete, self-focused, daring, and insistent upon proving himself to be a heterosexual. He has several girlfriends, one of whom, 37-year old Amie Huguenard, accompanies him in death, but does he protesteth too much about his sexual identity?

Among what we have to assume to be well chosen excepts from the adventurer's footage is the director's narration and interviews that, while recognizing the symptoms of a troubled mind, sometimes breathlessly builds the meaning of his life as somehow iconic. Herzog is an interesting filmmaker but his thread of analysis is thinned by too much river water for my taste. My impression of Treadwell is that this was a man whose elevator didn't quite reach the top floor.

His exploits earned him an appearance on the David Letterman portfolio of strange dudes in which the Dave asks, "are we going to be reading a headline one of these days that you've been eaten by a grizzly bear?" or words to that effect. We don't see Treadwell's full reply, but this documentary leaves no doubt that the possibility was not only plausible to the adventurer himself, but many times repeated. Death by grizzly, he assures his imagined audience, would be welcomed as a better fate than dying as a nobody living an ordinary life.

It's hard to build up much commisseration about so morbidly tragic a human mentality, though the unnecessary loss of life will touch everyone who witnesses how a singular set of delusions, misguided devotion, and challenging social coping factors bring it about.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


Opinion Section
Comments from readers:
Well written
This review will influence me to read more by this reviewer
I've seen the movie and agree with the review
Site rating: 10

Only an idiot would touch a wild grizzly bear in the name of "preserving" it. Had to check it out, to see if it was real. Apparently so. And people are taking this idiot seriously? Poor bears.

                                                           ~~ C T
Very well written
This review will influence me to get my local newspaper to hire this reviewer
I've seen the movie and agree with the review
Site rating: 8

The movie is a shameless exploitation of a severely damaged mind, trapped in a grandiosity born of his early childhood abuse. The best thing that could be done for the memory of Treadwell would be to slap his parents in the face.

                                                           ~~ Lawrence F.
Well written, insightful
This review will influence me to read more by this reviewer
Site rating: 7

a wonderfully rounded view of a compassionate man that is maybe a little longer than needed. Timothy Treadwell died doing what he loved, living amongst those that he loved, who are we to judge him? I find it amazing that anyone could call someone who obviously cared for wild animals a great deal, an idiot or that he 'deserved' to die. If i were a racing car driver and died in a crash would people be so quick to judge my life? label me 'crazy'? and insist i 'deserved' my death?

                                                           ~~ Sue
Well written
I've seen the movie and agree with the review
Site rating: 8

Mr. Treadway's delusions did indeed lead to his demise -- as did a certain Hubris regarding his self- absorbed view of nature as somehow reflecting his own good intentions versus an indifference that is part of the natural world.

                                                           ~~ M. Quinn
Well written
I've seen the movie and I agree with the review
Site rating: 8

I found the movie to be very disturbing. I have woken in the middle of the night feeling sick about it. Its certainly depressing from beginning to end.

                                                           ~~ Geri S.
Poorly written
Site rating: 10

I think this reviewer comes off as being an expert and quite judgmental. What if any good comes from words and thoughts such as these?

                                                           ~~ Lisa P.
Well written, perceptive
I've seen the movie and I agree with the review
Site rating: 9

Treadwell is so obviously, and so sadly, insane. This is a sad tragic film.

                                                           ~~ Suzy L.
Well written
This review will influence me to recommend this reviewer
Site rating: 7

I was unable to completely view the film my first time watching, but made it all the way to the end my second time around which altered my opinions about tredway and the meaning in my feelings about the film in general.

                                                           ~~ joni r.

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The intrepid adventurer Timothy Treadwell and friend
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