In the era of the popularity of documentaries, it seems that everywhere we look a new documentary is coming out about another subject. From Michael Moore’s look into the Bush administration’s ties with the Sauds in Fahrenheit 911, to the recent look into the world of penguins in March of the Penguins, each documentary holds something special as they bring us to a world we may have never known if it not for these filmmakers. One of the more special documentaries in recent time is an extremely powerful na…ure documentary called Grizzly Man.
Grizzly Man deals with a man named Timothy Treadwell who, for 13 summers, spent his time living in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Reserve investigating grizzly bears. The film is like no other documentary I have ever seen. It has a certain level of power that is unheard of. The director of the film Werner Herzog, nor the actual documentary, approve of what Treadwell is doing. It’s also not too concerned with presenting the animals as marvelous creatures. The film was assembled by Herzog from some 90 plus hours of video that Treadwell shot in the wild directly interacting with these bears. Treadwell never showed any fear, despite Treadwell knowing and once saying ”If I show weakness, I’m dead. They will take me out, they will decapitate me, they will chop me up into bits and pieces—I’m dead. So far, I persevere.” Low and behold, this is exactly what does occur to Treadwell and his girlfriend.
The idea of this man dying is not meant to be a spoiler in the film as it is revealed right away 8 minutes into the film. The film is not meant to be a memorial to Treadwell, but rather a look into these creatures. It is a look into this world from the eyes and thoughts of great German director Werner Herzog. Herzog has dealt with subjects like this he says. The subject he is referring to is the subject of madness that Treadwell dealt with.
Treadwell, it seems, wants to become one of these bears. He sentimentalizes with them showing the care and tenderness that we, as humans, would show a significant other. Even though Treadwell did have a girlfriend named Amie Huguenard, he still cared a lot for these bears. There is one particular scene where we see Treadwell sitting with a pet fox who we learn he has befriended and known for some 10 years. He pleads with the audience to look into the eyes of this fox and stop hunting these poor animals for sport and to stop wearing them. Or take the scene where Treadwell grows angry with God because a drought has dried up the salmon run, which the bears consume. He yells and demands that God make it rain, and it does. Maybe these two scenes prove that Treadwell had more of a message behind himself doing this.
Herzog made this film because he feels the connection or, as he puts it, the real madness that Treadwell had toward these bears. Possibly because the way Herzog presents each scene, but we can’t help but exit this film having a certain feeling of courage and wonder as to why Treadwell would do this knowing he would die. Maybe it is not that he died by a mysterious bear who he met a mere few hours before (thus not establishing that connection which he established with the others), but perhaps that he died by the sole creatures he dedicated his existence to. What a fantastically moving and powerful film.
Grizzly Man is presented in a 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen image. Since a majority of the film’s footage is from Treadwell, which was all captured on video cameras in the Alaskan wild, I figured the film would be grainy and poor. I’m happy to report that most of the film remains in pretty good shape despite the source. I found the image to be quite sharp considering the equipment that was used. There is little to no edge enhancement and the picture is very clean and free of any dirt or debris. The outdoor scenes are filled with lush blues and greens that look beautiful! A pretty good transfer here.
We are given a Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio Track that does its job. We can easily tell that this was a one man job as we can hear the wind hit his microphone making some of the dialogue a bit difficult to understand in some areas. Director Werner Herzog’s narration is very clear and easy to understand. Just like the video, the audio transfer is fine considering its source.
We are given a fascinating 50 minute documentary here.
- ”In the Edges: The Grizzly Man Session”: This feature is extremely interesting and informative. We get a very in-depth look into the music of the film. Director Werner Herzog takes us through the process scene by scene from early meetings to the final recording sessions. We learn what Herzog hoped to accomplish by making a film of this nature via his thoughts on the films’ composition and overall feel. He didn’t want to make just a ‘bear film’ but rather a film that could see how gentle these creatures can be. This feature is a lot more interesting than one might expect.
- Trailers: Here we are given trailers for the films Crash, Rize, Happy Endings, a comedy called Weeds, Beyond the Sea, Danny Deckchair, Lord of War, and Akeelah and the Bee.
- Theatrical Trailer: Here we are given the Theatrical Trailer for the film.
Grizzly Man is one of those films that you see every so often that has a lasting effect on you. Through the words of Treadwell and visions of great director Herzog, we are given a story of a man who most would call crazy. Treadwell develops not only a relationship with the bears, but also an emotional relationship with his audience. The DVD boasts pretty good picture and audio, but this is the type of film that is not going to succeed due to its picture and audio, but rather the power it sends. This is a highly recommended film that everyone needs to see.
Special Features List
- “In the Edges: The Grizzly Man Session” A 50 minute documentary on the film’s music
- Theatrical Trailer