There are very few directors like Werner Herzog. In my honest opinion, he has never made a bad film. His motion pictures are timeless, and his documentaries are inspiring. His 2005 documentary, Grizzly Man is one of the crowning achievements in his filmography. The tragic story of Timothy Treadwell, a man who devoted over 13 years to the Grizzly bears of Alaska, only to meet his end by them. Treadwell was uncompromising and passionate about his work, much like Werner Herzog himself. It seems only fitting that Treadwell’s story be told by him.
Like any good documentarian, Herzog is objective in telling the story. He interviews both sides, from the people who worked alongside him, and the people who were opposed to him. The bulk of the story is told by Treadwell himself, through the 100 hours of film footage he recorded over the course of 13 years. His camera becomes the ideal storyteller, revealing the compassion and love for the animals he worked with, as the inner thoughts of someone at odds with the civilized world.
Throughout the film Herzog seems to connect with Treadwell, on a very deep level. In films such as Aguirre: The Wrath Of God and Fitzcarraldo, he battled the elements, and placed himself in danger, all for the sake of his art. Several times he praises the footage shot in Alaska, as something enormous studios and union camera crews could never accomplish. He recognizes the passion, dedication, and drive it takes to film.
As far as Treadwell’s behavior on camera, one might find it comical. He’s energetic, highly emotional and sometimes completely over the top. I find that easy to look past and even appreciate–speaking as someone who only recently entered the world of filmmaking, you have to possess a drive and conviction that at times borders on the insane. If you subtract his erratic behavior from the equation, you might find parallels with Henry David Thoreau. An individual attempts to break from the restraints of the modern world, and finds beauty in a return to nature. Treadwell wanted nothing more than to be with the animals he surrounded himself with, in todays cold world of ever advancing technology, this film shows us there are still those who find beauty in nature.