Saturday, 7 May 2011

Grizzly Man (2005) - Already fascinating footage, made infinitely better with Herzog's touch

Viewing Context:
Borrowed the DVD eons ago from my sister. Always been meaning to watch it and with Herzog’s 3D venture Cave of Forgotten Dreams coming up I decided it was time I saw one of his documentaries.

What Happened:
Timothy Treadwell is a fella who loves wildlife and isn’t right keen on people. So he decides to knock about with bears in the wild for the best part of every year. Inevitably, he is eaten by one. Werner Herzog creates this documentary out of Treadwell's footage, to capture who he was and why he lived the way he did.

What I liked:
Documentary of a documentary: I loved the multi-layered approach here, as the footage was taken from one mind (Treadwell) and pieced together by another (Herzog). This, for me, continues Herzog’s constantly playful approach to storytelling and adds depth that would possibly be absent in less competent hands.
Footage: The footage itself was breathtaking, getting right into the middle of this wildlife. Herzog gleefully remarks that this is the type of footage that is only possible from somebody as nuts as Treadwell and that no union crews would ever allow this level of danger.
Not sensationalist: Although it was a sensational subject and clearly had an element of spectacle to it (hence my comment about the footage above), the decision not to show the climactic 'eaten by bear’ scene just illustrates that it isn’t in existence to sensationally exploit this one event. The descriptions dotted about the narrative are harrowing and graphic enough without exploiting the matter.

Society at large tries to impose generic notions of how to live: People have different comprehensions of things that others consider to be grounded general knowledge. Hence, many of the people spoken to here don't understand why Treadwell did this every year; they made no effort to see things from his angle. They imposed their own notion of how to live onto what he was doing. Only some saw that it was fine that he died out there with the bears; that by living the way he wanted to, and fully understanding the dangers, that he has lived more truthfully than most people do.
Find meaning: In order to overcome some personal shit, you have to find meaning; what is your purpose in life? If you have this then you are happy, fulfilled even.

Scene of the film:
Bear fight: The fight clearly displayed the brutality of this bear-world. The reaction of Treadwell immediately after perfectly captures his love for them and their way of life. His enthusiasm in scenes like this are the kinds of things that lead, for me, to the justification of him living his life this way and why him dying out there is fine. This was his life, being lived the way he wanted it.

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