A docudrama that centers on amateur grizzly bear expert Timothy Treadwell. He periodically journeyed to Alaska to study and live with the bears. He was killed, along with his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, by a rogue bear in October 2003. The films explores Treadwell's compassionate life as he found solace among these endangered animals. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
In the DVD's extra-feature section about the documentary's music-recording sessions with Richard Thompson and fellow musicians, Werner Herzog explains his vision for the material he asked the musicians to improvise. For instance, underneath the slow fight of two bears, cello and the upright bass are heard menacing. Also when Treadwell swims near a bear, Herzog explains that this is not the kind of harmony it appears to be, but instead it's a situation of dangerous foreshadowing. See more »
Werner Herzog describes Timothy Treadwell's last tape, while telling his friend never to listen to it, as always being "a White Elephant in the room". "White Elephant" is a different figure of speech from "Elephant in the room". "White Elephant" means an extravagant but useless project; "Elephant in the room" means something unspoken that is nevertheless obvious. See more »
I'm out in the prime cut of big green. Behind me is Ed and Rowdy, members of an up-and-coming sub-adult gang. They're challenging everything, including me. Goes with the territory. If I show weakness, if I retreat, I may be hurt, I may be killed. I must hold my own if I'm gonna stay within this land. For once there is weakness they will exploit it, they will take me out, they will decapitate me, they will chop me into bits and pieces. I'm dead. But so far, I persevere. Persevere.
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by McDill (as Bob McDill)
Performed by Don Edwards
Courtesy of Universal-Polygram Int. Publ., Inc.
On behalf of itself and Ranger Bob Music (ASCAP), Warner Bros. Records, Inc. by arrangement with Warner Strategic Marketing See more »
a kind of master's class in a schizo documentary- sometimes quite amusing and entertaining, other times very somber and depressing
This documentary, written, directed, and narrated by German madman maestro Werner Herzog, has very little in it that isn't worth seeing, and at its best brings some of the most captivating, candid, and entertaining documentary footage of the year. The subject matter is an environmentalist/bear nut named Timothy Treadwell, a nobody who became a kind of weird celebrity for living each summer on an Alaskan wildlife preservation with Grizzly bears. He also documented a lot of his time on the island, which Herzog chooses wisely for his film on him. Treadwell may or may not have totally believed a fate like death among his co-habitants would come (there is one scene where he says he'd die for them, another when he says he's safe). But his fate did come, along with his girlfriends, rather grisly as we hear from the details (which, wisely, we never see).
One is tempted to comment on Treadwell, as he is (much as with Herzog's protagonists in his fiction films) possessive, ambitious, naive, dazed, emotional, but somehow in tune with his own sense of nature and the ways of the world. Herzog himself comments a good deal on Treadwell, when he agrees with him, when he doesn't (Herzog, as Roger Ebert pointed out, does have a bleak world-view as opposed to Treadwell's overly optimistic one). What one can comment on is the execution of the material. We get interviews with Treadwell's close friends (one platonic, one not), the people who found his and his girlfriend's bodies in the forest, and a couple of nearby experts (one Native American comments on how Treadwell did what they had never done in 7,000 years, to cross a boundary that was respected). Herzog also gives us majestic, spacious images of Alaskan wilderness, and gives some ample time for footage of the bears and foxes.
If not for Treadwell's rather high & low nature (as a friend comments), this might be a very standard documentary on a bear expert. But because of the documentary- or near television hosting footage (I sometimes felt like I was seeing a nicer, if stranger version, of the Croc Hunter)- of Treadwell on camera by himself, the film gets another dimension. It's also a help that in combating the grim reality of what became of him (Herzog's narration is this rather sad, if praising side), it's rather funny to see Treadwell in his behavior on screen. In some subtle ways he's in a more 'normal' state of mind than the rest of us- he loves his bears (whom, by the way, he gave names to; he stands his ground against the occasional poachers); he has that mix of sentimentality and rawness that is needed to live for so long in the wilderness.
The absurdity of it usually brings the laughs, but even behind them there is always a constant curiosity about him. We learn that he wanted to be an actor, which lead to a bad, near fatal spell before his 'bear' retreat, acting as more of a spiritual catalyst more than anything else. Even if some of this footage is a little zany, over-the-top, or may go far on his name, it is honest to a kind of schizo degree. We almost wouldn't want Treadwell to be normal, and go figure- Herzog would have no interest in him. In the end, despite Herzog's comments (which aren't the best parts of the film to me), his film tries not to pass judgment on Treadwell, letting his actions and other testimonies speak for themselves. And, if nothing else, it's compulsively (for a certain movie-viewer) watchable.
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