Grizzly Man is now open for discussion

Our July 2007 film selection, Grizzly Man, is now open for discussion. Members who would like to Post an Official Commentary here are welcome to do so (Contact Ron or Roger if you would like to have posting priveleges to this blogsite). Anyone, member or not, can place brief comments here by simply clicking on the comments button.


One thought on “Grizzly Man is now open for discussion

  1. Erasing the Line

    Timothy Treadwell was a troubled human being. He had always been a charismatic clown and misfit, barely able to hold down any kind of job. He made a short attempt at being an actor, proud of the fact that he was born the same day as Daniel Day Lewis; April 29th. He ended up being at liberty a lot, doing a lot of surfing, drinking, and drugs. A handsome man, he had no difficulty having an active social life.

    At some point in 1990, at 33 years old, after a drug overdose that nearly killed him, he found himself on the Katmai Peninsula in Alaska, on a Federal Nature Reserve, swarming with grizzlies. He began to become “friends” with the bears, giving them all pet names. After several summers in a row, he decided he had a special “feeling” for the Ursus Horribilis. His broken dreams and sad life took on a new focus, and twisted a new direction. His life turned “positive”, and from his perspective he morphed into a unique individual, the “Grizzly Man”.

    He returned to Katmai 12 summers consecutively. He had picked up a female companion and employee, Jewel Palovak. He decided to film his time with the bears, giving himself the starring role as “Eco Warrior”. They created a non-profit organization called GRIZZLY PEOPLE, and they solicited funds to keep his “research” active. He began to consider himself as a “bear expert”. His exploits were shown on the Discovery Channel, and on Dateline NBC, and he made an appearance on David Letterman. He took his show on the road, and he began to talk with school children, lecturing and entertaining them. He amassed more than 100 hours of film, always with himself down front doing absurd and dangerous things like standing off bears, or swimming with them, or trying to pet them. He lived amongst them without a weapon, not even a pistol. He stated over and over in his filmed tapes, “I will die for these animals.”

    His soft effeminate voice and less than masculine gait seemed in conflict with who he seemed to think he had become, or tried to portray. Yet there on the tapes he stated, “I have always wished I were gay. It would have been a lot easier. You know with gay guys it’s just bing, bing, bing –no problem. They just go to restrooms and truck stops and perform sex acts. It’s like easy for them and stuff.” He strained to be macho, to be a real man –but it was all false braggadocio, shadow play, and sad sham. Perhaps his fey persona was one of the reasons he lasted so long with the bears –he did not represent a threat.

    Late summer 2003, at the airport, getting ready to come home, he got in an altercation with an airline employee, became incensed and decided to return to the Katmai. He had no business returning to the bear domain as food was less plentiful for them, and many of them were beginning to hibernate. He had a companion, Amie Huguenard, who was deathly afraid of bears. One night in October 2003, a rogue grizzly, an embittered old boar, came into their tent, and dragged Treadwell outside. It all happened in a flash, but Treadwell was able to click on his ever-present camera, but there was not time to remove the lens cap. The terrible audio recorded the bear killing Treadwell, and then beginning to eat him. He had screamed for Amie to run, but oddly she grabbed a frying pan and tried to fight the bear. The grizzly killed her too, and over the next two days he devoured and ate both of them. All that was found later of Treadwell was “a head connected to a piece of backbone.”

    A year later, famed director Werner Herzog decided to make a documentary about Treadwell. He reviewed the 100 hours of film, and trimmed it down to 103 minutes; over half of which were interviews with friends, compeers, and experts. He has directed 52 films since 1962. He is no stranger to documentaries –over a third of his movies are documentaries. Many of his other films centered on a protagonist who was mad, or was driven mad. A number of those films were done with manic actor Klaus Kinski, an artist with titanic talent and a fragile mental balance. Together they made AGUIRRE, WRATH OF GOD (1972), NOSFERATU (1979), WOYZECK (1979), and finally FITZCARRALDO (1982). Their relationship was rocky and tumultuous. Their cinematic collaborations were legend; capped with a Herzog documentary that chronicled all those years in MY BEST FRIEND (1999).

    So Werner Herzog approached the Treadwell project with an affinity for this unfortunate misfit –this emotionally immature, posturing, arrogant, possibly bisexual and foolish man. But by the end of the project, the director seemed to take on a more somber pessimistic tone, suggesting that Timothy Treadwell’s hubris, fearlessness, and ignorance finally cost him his life.

    Herzog stated, “I believe the common character of the universe is not harmony –but hostility, chaos, and murder. I found that in the faces of all the bears he filmed, there was no kinship, no understanding, and no mercy –only an overwhelming indifference to nature.”
    He also said, “I do not believe that there ever was a secret world of the bears.”

    The music for the film was composed by famed guitarist Richard Thompson. Herzog spent a long time doing hands-on direction of the musicians. He knows a lot about music, and the scores for his films reflect his knowledge. One of his films that reveals a bit of this expertise was THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE WORLD INTO MUSIC (1996).

    Despite its sensationalism and sentimentality, I feel that GRIZZLY MAN emerges as a powerful piece of cinema. The reality of who Timothy Treadwell was, and his untimely demise at 46 years old continues to haunt me, and will not go away. I personally believe he was misguided, mentally challenged, and extremely, lethally foolish. This is a man who had to hide out from authorities, camping out on federal land, standing “guard” over grizzlies that did not need his assistance, who were already guarded by the boundaries of the reserve. These bears, while busy eating salmon and summer berries simply tolerated his antics and presence –until that late Fall day when one surly old boar decided to end the charade, and to give what Treadwell craved, a “martyr’s death”.

    When I think of the film, I will always remember the epilogue, where bush pilot Willy Fulton sang along with the blues song;
    Now the long horns are gone,
    And the drovers are gone.
    The Comanche’s are gone,
    And the outlaws are gone.
    Now Quantro is gone.
    Stan Watie is gone.
    And the lion is gone,
    And the red wolf is gone.
    “And Treadwell is gone,” the pilot added.

    Glenn Buttkus 2007

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