Written & Directed by Werner Herzog
The thing I am quickly learning about Werner Herzog is that he is super interesting, super curious, and a super filmmaker. Grizzly Man is very similar to his other documentary that I watched, Encounters at the End of the World, but it is also very very different. Grizzly Man explores the person of Timothy Treadwell, who spent 13 summers by himself in Alaska, living and studying with Grizzly Bears. The problem? He wasn’t exactly an expert, and arguably, he wasn’t exactly sane. I do not want to comment on Treadwell himself, for I am in no position to pass any judgement on him, and I felt Herzog felt the same way. Instead, Herzog questions his motives and actions, not to judge him or find fault in him, but to explore the fundamental questions of existence in humans and in nature. There are so many themes going on here, so many avenues and questions raised by the filmmaking. I love it. Herzog is unafraid to ask the right questions and ask the questions that interest him. In many ways he makes these documentary for himself, for his own curiosity, for his own enjoyment it seems. But what is remarkable is the fact that they also resonate with the audience and tell amazing stories. Perhaps this is something that just connects with me personally, but his popularity suggests otherwise.
This story is not a tragedy of the death of Treadwell, but more it is a tragedy of the life of Treadwell. Tragedy may be a strong word, for perhaps it is better instead to simply say he marched to the beat of his own drum. He was an anomaly and someone who did not fit in well with normal, civilized society. He struggled with people and spent time by himself whenever he could, preferring bears to humans. His story is an interesting portrait of a human, not a man who spent a lot of his time with bears. Herzog uses this premise as a way to explore the themes that interest him and raises the questions that he wants to ask. I am getting further away from the fiction film Herzog having seen these two documentaries, but I am not disappointed because they show that he is a great filmmaker. Now it is time to get to the Kinski era of Herzog and find out what I think of that.