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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 38.55%
Average: 2.41%
Pretty Bad: 8.43%
Total Crap: 6.02%

7 reviews, 41 user ratings

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Grizzly Man
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by Beth Gilligan

"Fascinating study of one man's desire to live on the edge."
4 stars

As reality television continues to clog the airwaves, its subjects seem increasingly at ease in front the camera. Whether disciplining their children, discussing their marital problems, or candidly critiquing their relationship with others on the show, they display a disarming sense of comfort disclosing their innermost thoughts to the larger populace. Timothy Treadwell, the wildlife activist who lived among grizzly bears for 13 summers before being mauled to death by one of the creatures, posed no exception to this trend. While many documentaries feel vaguely exploitative toward their subjects, the same can hardly be said for Grizzly Man, which chronicles Treadwell’s unquenchable thirst to bring attention to both himself and his beloved bears.

Lest this statement cast Treadwell in an unflattering light, let me hasten to add that Grizzly Man’s director and narrator, Werner Herzog, makes as little room for judgment here as he does in his fictional films. While some of the more popular recent documentaries have a cohesive narrative arc, Herzog’s film (which incorporates a large chunk of footage filmed in the wild by Treadwell) is more of a meandering study of the bridge that divides man and nature, and of one man’s drive to immerse himself in danger. Treadwell’s love of wild animals occasionally pushed him to the brink of sanity, and capped off a life spent in pursuit of extremes (those who have seen Aguirre: The Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo should have no trouble figuring out what drew Herzog to this subject). While Treadwell’s fascination may have been with the powerful creatures he considered his furry friends, the audience’s mind will most likely linger on the charismatic, shaggy-haired man who is onscreen the bulk of the movie’s running time.

Bursting with an almost manic supply of energy, Treadwell makes for an engaging host of his self-recorded nature show. Although he was accompanied by his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard (who perished by his side during the grizzly attack), on a few of his journeys, he cultivated the image of himself as a lone explorer, filming over 100 hours of footage, during he which he alternately observed the bears and delivered frantic monologues about life, nature, and the people who were out to get him and the forest animals he surrounded himself with.

At times, Herzog’s solemn narration spells things out for the audience a little too clearly, but at other moments, such as when the director expresses admiration for Treadwell as a filmmaker, it bolsters the story, giving us another angle from which to view the enigmatic activist. Treadwell’s friends and family are also interviewed, providing further perspective on his life, though these segments have a strange, artificial feel to them, as if Herzog felt compelled to highlight the staged nature of these filmed encounters. Similarly jarring (but ultimately effective, given Treadwell’s personality) is Herzog’s decision to blend comedy with the seriousness of the subject at hand.

In the end, however, Herzog reminds of us of the craft that can go into the making of a documentary film. So many documentaries released today coast by on interesting subject matter; while Grizzly Man certainly has this in its favor, it is Herzog’s thoughtful method of exploring Treadwell’s life that sets it apart from the crowd.

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originally posted: 08/11/05 05:00:41
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/20/15 jeanne His arrogance and ignorance of WHERE HE WAS got two bears killed. Good job, dumbass. 1 stars
9/20/09 Angry Bear I may have possibly died briefly during this spectacular explosion of laughable dirge. 1 stars
5/11/08 mb Very self-centered. 2 stars
6/10/07 Bob Amateurish, flimsy, wanna-be documentary. Thank God this moron was eaten. 1 stars
1/18/07 MP Bartley The Bear Witch Project. Craaaaazy guy. 4 stars
12/28/06 Bobby Ny Not all that great, expected more Bear scenes 2 stars
10/21/06 Tanya Grays It was odd but interesting, it proves we should not mess with animals 4 stars
10/21/06 Tanya Grays It was odd but interesting, it proves we should not mess with animals 5 stars
8/17/06 Mary Beth it was ok 3 stars
6/03/06 Rowsdower Great character study. 5 stars
6/02/06 San Lamar i highly enjoyed this one 4 stars
5/29/06 Jill Made me hungrier than Super Size Me did. 5 stars
5/09/06 Tiana G it is amaizing!!! 5 stars
2/17/06 tatum Strong and fascinating, and uncomfortable to watch 5 stars
2/15/06 Indrid Cold Unique and interesting, but ultimately pointless. 4 stars
2/15/06 malcolm TT was plumb nuts. awesome doc' with no preplanned agenda. take a lesson michael moore. 4 stars
2/06/06 Ole Man Bourbon Gayer than Carson from Queer Eye for the S. G. Cute film though till the end. 5 stars
2/06/06 WTF Best comedy of 2005. 5 stars
1/17/06 Jared Wilson I can't believe how much I LAUGHED! 4 stars
1/08/06 strider Fascinating flawed Treadwell - had an amazing "connection" with the wildness around him 5 stars
11/22/05 Kurtis J. Beard Herzog = Great Movie. Go see Aguire, the Wrath of God. You won't regret it. 5 stars
10/24/05 Naka YES HE MUST HAVE. Jackass, you don't GET to enjoy this movie. Sucks to be you. 5 stars
9/21/05 Alex Interesting and beautiful. Rather selfish of how he got her killed along with himself. 4 stars
9/16/05 APK A brain fried on drugs 2 stars
9/04/05 JDikner I want my money back! 1 stars
9/04/05 Naka Without question the single greatest documentary I have ever seen. 5 stars
8/31/05 sully "Beyond that,we all enter the food chain,& not always right at the top" Hunter S. Thompson 4 stars
8/30/05 Lisa ridiculous narcissm by both Herzog and Threadmill 4 stars
8/28/05 jenjenmarie what a psycho, pretty entertaining though... 4 stars
8/25/05 Me is this thing for realz? does anyone suspect this guy is faking his own death? 4 stars
8/23/05 Steve A film about an unstable, self promoting guy. Chris Guest appears to have written this. 2 stars
8/22/05 Pam Sloane Another great Herzog contribution-troubling, exhilarating and memorable. 5 stars
8/09/05 kamal nothing 5 stars
8/01/05 Lou Schlegell a voyeuristic work using a very incompetent man as its foil pretending to be a documentary 1 stars
6/09/05 Nikki Hix good perspective 4 stars
1/30/05 Garnet Leib Great 4 stars
1/29/05 buddy garrett aargh! 2 stars
1/29/05 buddy garrett aargh! 2 stars
1/29/05 Naka Neat documentary. 4 stars
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  12-Aug-2005 (R)
  DVD: 26-Dec-2005

  03-Feb-2006 (15)


Directed by
  Werner Herzog

Written by

  Timothy Treadwell
  Amie Huguenard

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