2005 crazy person documentary
Plot: For thirteen summers, Timothy Treadwell had ventured into Alaska to hang out with grizzly bears and foxes. During his later trips, he even videotapes himself with the bears. Several times, he tells his camera that he would die for these bears, and then, as if to prove that he's not just all talk, he and his girlfriend Amy are devoured by a bear he nicknamed Grumpy.
On a technical level, putting all of Treadwell's footage and Herzog's interviews into something this cohesive and meaningful is quite the achievement. I really like how Herzog focuses on the smaller aspects of Treadwell's story. The Cliff Notes version of this is that Treadwell and his girlfriend were eaten by a bear and that it was really gruesome. But Herzog gives us a much more complete picture of this nutty guy. He's much more than just a victim of a bear attack. My favorite moments from the interviews and from Treadwell's footage are the ones that are almost insignificant to the actual story--details about him working in a restaurant, his parents holding his stuffed bear, Timothy discussing his sexuality, lingering shots of the Alaskan landscape. Treadwell's footage is both haunting and sad, haunting as we see some of his last moments on earth and hearing him earlier seem to predict his death, and sad as we get such intimate glimpses into the soul of this tortured and pretty unstable guy. There's definitely some weirdness in this documentary, so much that I can understand why a lot of people might be put off by the whole thing or even think the entire thing is an elaborate hoax. Herzog's narration is often goofy and far from objective. He unapologetically shifts from documentarian to commentator several times. A lot of the interviews seem rehearsed and unnatural, as does a "candid" moment when the coroner gives Timothy's friend the watch that was found on his arm. I have no doubt that there was some coaching involved and that Herzog is guilty of creating a great deal of this reality, but I'm not sure that matters much. You also get such a disturbing picture of Timothy in his films, from the faux-action stuff where he's running around like an adventure seeker to the times when he completely spazzes out and turns himself inside out so that his internal dialogue is on full display, that he doesn't seem like he could possible have been a real person. There's an absurdity to all of this, and Timothy Treadwell was an absolutely absurd human being, but you're not going to get a more chillingly complete picture of this sort of obsessive personality. It's easy to see some parallels between subject and director here. This is dense stuff. The horrors and beauties makes Grizzly Man the type of movie that will bounce around your noggin for a long, long time after you've shut it off.