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Disturbing and Surreal
on 16 July 2010
Please note that this is not a wildlife documentary! The documentary is really about Timothy Treadwell, it uses parts of Timothy's own amazing footage to track his deteriorating mental state leading up to his death. Treadwell was a lover of Grizzly bears and dedicated his life to 'protecting' them, trying to understand and become one of them. Werner Herzog paints a portrait of an extraordinary man who has retreated from human society and found peace in the animal world- for 13 summers he lives closely with the Grizzly bears, and when I say 'close' I mean CLOSE! Some of the footage is awe-inspiring and Treadwell manages to capture many staggering images of these incredible animals. What is really intriguing however is Treadwell himself- we come to realise that he had many problems in his own life, he was unable to cope with human society, his life and his emotional problems; this his has led to his extreme obsession with Bears and living amongst animals. He is like the Michael Jackson of the animal world, frolicking around speaking to the animals, personalising them and making friends with many beautiful creatures- there is a peculiar innocence about his attitude but it is inevitable that is naivety and delusion would lead to serious danger.
Over time, he believed he was trusted by the bears, who would allow him to approach them, and sometimes even touch them. Treadwell was repeatedly warned by park officials that his interaction with the bears was unsafe to both him and to the bears. "At best, he's misguided," Deb Liggett, superintendent at Katmai and Lake Clark national parks, told the Anchorage Daily News in 2001. "At worst, he's dangerous. If Timothy models unsafe behavior, that ultimately puts bears and other visitors at risk." Treadwell filmed his exploits, and used the films to raise public awareness of the problems faced by bears in North America. In 2003, at the end of his 13th visit, he and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard were attacked, killed, and partially eaten by a bear; the events which led to the attack are unknown.
As Grizzly Bear works towards its conclusion it becomes increasingly disturbing- Timothy's seems to descend more and more into insanity and reckless abandon, he seems ready to die and unfortunately in the end he got what he was asking for, such a shame he took his girlfriend with him. Descriptions of the aftermath made feel pretty queasy... This is an unusual documentary- you could easily convince someone it is a black comedy fiction because some of the people in it are truly bizzare characters; Timothy's friends and some people Herzog gets to speak are rather strange (especially the coroner). To conclude; this is a story about a disturbed man who descends into insanity, a Michael Jackson like character but his affinity is with Bears not children. In the end he was deluded but he lived an incredible life and had an unbelievable connection with animals- he made some friends out there, we see him walk with bears who follow him as companions and he befriends foxes, it is really worth watching; surreal and fascinating.