Grizzly Man, a documentary film directed by the famed German auteur Werner Herzog, explores the life and gruesome death of amateur grizzly bear expert and wildlife preservationist, Timothy Treadwell. The film is an entertaining and powerful tale about modern man’s relationship to nature, as it follows Treadwell’s journeys to the Alaskan wilderness, where he lived among the grizzlies for 13 summers and grew to love them. Treadwell and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, shot nearly 100 hours of video footage during the last five of these thirteen years. They survived camping in the Alaskan flora and tundra amongst hoards of flies, torrential rain and some rather friendly red foxes, which Treadwell amicably named, just as he did the grizzly bears.
We learn that Treadwell was a normal East Coast, American, middle class kid, who went to college on a diving scholarship, fell into acting and made his way out to Los Angeles. After a failed audition for the bartender part claimed by Woody Harrelson on the hit television series Cheers, Treadwell began questioning his life amongst people in a metropolis and began living with the grizzly bears of Kodiak, Alaska. He admitted to wanting to be a bear himself and even slept with his favorite teddy bear at night while camping in the wilderness. His narration/interview scenes in the film are both comical and sad at times.
With the help of some friends, Treadwell formed a non-profit organization called Grizzly People and was even interviewed on the David Letterman show. Unfortunately, Treadwell’s crusade to defend the grizzlies from poachers and challenge the lack of support from the National Park Service tragically ended when he–and his girlfriend–were attacked and killed by a rogue grizzly in October 2003.
Herzog and his talented crew managed to edit this film in nine days in order to make the submission deadline for the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, where it was awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize. Produced by Lions Gate Films and Discovery Docs, Grizzly Man is a gripping and epic adventure story in the tradition of Jon Krakhauer’s book Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster and Joy Adamson’s Born Free. This is a nature doc that reads more like a dramatic feature film.
Eccentric German writer/director known equally for his brilliant visionary style and tortuous filming techniques. After several years struggling financially to launch himself as a filmmaker, Herzog began his career with the wartime drama Lebenszeichen and surreal comedy Even Dwarfs Started Small. But it was the stunning 1972 jungle adventure Aguirre, Wrath of God that brought him international acclaim and began his tempestuous working relationship with Klaus Kinski. The 1975 period fable Heart of Glass featured an almost entirely hypnotised cast, while other Herzog classics from this era include Stroszek, the gothic horror Nosferatu the Vampyre and the spectacular, notoriously expensive epic Fitzcarraldo.