Top 100 Films #20 – Grizzly Man (2005)

 

11#20. Grizzly Man (2005)
Directed by: Werner Herzog
Written by: Werner Herzog
Starring: Timothy Treadwell, Amie Huguenard, Werner Herzog

Grizzly Man is the fourth and final documentary on my top 100 films list. Werner Herzog’s intimate and disturbing look at the life and death of the controversial Timothy Treadwell was one of the films that introduced me to the power of documentaries, and is an experience that I will never be able to forget. Grizzly Man is composed of videos captured by Timothy Treadwell, a nature and bear enthusiast who spent a great deal of time camping in Katmai National Park in order to capture footage of grizzly bears.  Treadwell claimed that he was a “protector” of the bears, warding off poachers while forming strong relationships with the unpredictable animals.  Interspersed throughout are interviews with family and friends of Treadwell, as well as those who encountered Timothy along the way on his adventures.  Treadwell is painted as a deeply caring but reckless man whose trust in the grizzly bears eventually cost him his life.  Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man is a masterpiece in terms of editing and story structure, combining hundreds of hours of tape into a film that clocks in at less than two hours.  Herzog’s attitude towards Treadwell is made clear from the onset of the project – the director is fascinated by the bear-enthusiast, but also deeply disturbed by his point of view and actions. Despite this, Herzog constructs a beautiful and often endearing portrait of Timothy Treadwell, never straying into exploitative territory like some documentarians would have done.  Treadwell consistently proves to be a fascinating and complex character, making Grizzly Man a powerful and moving character study.  It never shies away from Timothy’s obsessive and naive character traits, but also never punishes him for these things. The footage that Treadwell managed to capture during his camping trips is stunning, with bears and other animals making regular appearances in the background and foreground – Timothy even approaches the bears confidently on multiple occasions.  Herzog notes that he admires Treadwell as a filmmaker, as his talents are clear.  As always, Werner Herzog adds a sense of pitch black humor to the project through the use of deadpan narration, helping the story flow along at a quick pace.  Grizzly Man is a profound and moving experience the likes of which only comes around once in a lifetime.  No matter what your opinion of Timothy Treadwell, I implore you to see Grizzly Man.  

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