Next Nature Movie #7 – Grizzly Man

Van Mensvoort
December 24th 2010

The sad story of Timothy Treadwell is the ultimate example of the drama a naive notion of nature can bring about. Grizzly Man (2005) opens with the facts surrounding Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard's death. These facts remain inside you, as the story of Timothy Treadwell is gently disassembled. Failed actor? Inveterate liar? Misguided Mercenary? Disappointed and misanthropic about the world of people, Timothy Treadwell trades urban life for the companionship of a group of Grizzly bears, with whom he lives for thirteen summers.

Did he watch too much Disney movies? Was he merely playing out the part of some great Discovery Channel episode in his head? We watch and listen as a lonely Timothy walks and talks into his only companion, a MiniDV camera, about his female problems, drug problems, memories and most importantly his love of animals.

He tells the camera you must be firm with the bears, and he says he knows how to handle them, even though he also repeatedly says he knows he may die in their claws. Director Werner Herzog notes that Treadwell sought to disregard nature's cruelty, and any time it was in his face – as when the bears were starving in a dry spell and began eating their own young – he sought to manipulate nature to eliminate the ugliness. He faults not the bears but the rain gods.

Timothy Treadwell crossed a line between wild animals and humans that should never be crossed. This is a line so many other touchy-feely ‘nature’ and ‘wildlife’ films cross – see The March of the Penguins and you'll have a prime example. As such, Grizzly Man isn't about grizzlies, but about people who cross that line – who naively or willfully misunderstand nature for their own misguided reasons, to serve their own dysfunctional needs.

Passed: King Kong (1933), Jurrasic Park (1993).

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