Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA, 2005. Lions Gate Films, Discovery Docs, Real Big Production. Screenplay by Werner Herzog. Cinematography by Peter Zeitlinger. Produced by Erik Nelson. Music by Richard Thompson. Film Editing by Joe Bini. Independent Spirit Awards 2005. National Board of Review Awards 2005. New York Film Critics Awards 2005. Online Film Critics Awards 2005.
Werner Herzog assembles video footage taken by Timothy Treadwell, a passionate (to say the least) animal rights activist who spent thirteen summers in Alaska among grizzly bears in an effort to educate the world about them before he and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard were killed and eaten by one. Further investigation of Treadwell’s personal footage (most of which is breathtaking) reveals a not-so-stable individual whose desire to “become” a bear (and who had far too admiring an attitude towards their feces) was much more indicative of someone unable to deal with human civilization than any conservationist in the Dian Fossey/Jane Goodall vein. Considering he stays on government protected land among a population of bears who are not in any danger from civilization around them (native communities have been living harmoniously with them for thousands of years), his efforts at fighting any environmental causes seem rather pointless. Some of the interview subjects point out that while his and Huguenard’s deaths were tragic, Treadwell’s constant attempts at full-on contact with the bears make him more of a threat to them than anything else; the fact that he often rants on camera that he believes a Grizzly Bear attack would be a great way to die (at least the rants that actually make sense) pushes us past Non-Judgmental and into This Guy Is Coo-Coo For Coco Puffs. Early on in the film we find out that in his off-season, Treadwell would tour schools and inspire children to be as nature-conscious as himself: I would very much like to know what teacher in their right mind invited a man into their classroom who flouts National Park rules and who said in his book Among Grizzlies that it would be “an honour to end up as bearshit”. Just watch the part where he chases a fox to get his hat back, and if that doesn’t (sadly) convince you of his instability, nothing will. The rest of the film, with Herzog interviewing family and friends, is equally riveting, particularly a moment where Herzog himself listens to the tape of Treadwell and his mysterious girlfriend being mauled (which thankfully he doesn’t include in the film), one of the most chilling parts of this incredible story.