Saturday, February 04, 2006

Mr. Chocolate

I watched some of Grizzly Man, the Werner Herzog documentary about Timothy Treadwell, the self-proclaimed "protector" of grizzly bears, who was ultimately eaten by one of them, and the impression one is left with is that of an arrogant, deluded, foolish man. Arrogant because he believed he could cross over in to that world, that he could, in effect, become a bear himself. Treadwell appeared to be a font of narcissism, with much of the beautiful footage he shot being a series of multiple takes of him entering a scene, sometimes with a green bandana on his head, sometimes with a black one. He often claims he is the bears' only protection, as massive bears thrash about in the background, clearly in need of no protection he could ever provide.

It's an absorbingly sad picture of a lost soul. In one scene, Herzog sits with an ex-girlfriend of Treadwell's, to whom some of his last possessions have fallen, including the video camera that recorded the audio of his and his then girlfriend's deaths. The tape lasts six minutes. Herzog listens with headphones before the stricken woman. "You must never listen to this," he says.

The echoes of that moment, unheard, seem to pervade all the sunny footage, all the daffy babble Treadwell spouts. "I don't want to be hurt by a bear, I don't, I don't," he says quietly, almost like a prayer, one that will not be answered.


LKD said...

I found it unwatchable mostly because he struck me as incredibly, almost painfully naive and shockingly uninformed regarding the grizzlies. The risks he took were foolish but he seemed so child-like to me that any arrogance or delusional behavior on his part could probably be chalked up to that same sort of invincibility one feels under the age of ten. I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, I thought I was going to live forever and that bad things only happened to other people. Those magnificent bears surely would never attack him no matter how close he got to them because surely they knew how much he loved them--I think he was convinced of that.

I turned it off right after the footage of him crying over the fox's corpse.

Have you ever read Into the Wild, Paul? Excellent book about a similiarly deluded young man who walked into the wilderness never to emerge again. He was, I think, a heck of alot more intelligent than Treadwell, but just as naive, just as child-like in his belief that he could survive out there.

Man versus nature? Shocking but true, sometimes nature actually wins.

Paul said...

I had a similar reaction: after hearing it was a really fine documentary, I found I sort of didn't like it, if only because Treadwell was such a, well, ignoramus, chattering like a nine year old about things he clearly had no real understanding of. And yet I'm still thinking about it.

David said...

This was utterly painful to watch. I appreciate Herzog's desire to bring this hopelessly ignorant character to a wider audience, for it says much about the power of nature and our ridiculous claims at undersanding it.

Unfortunately, this movie followed a man and his mission I could not have felt more ambivalent about. Actually, couldn't have cared less about, in truth. Not good qualities for a documentary

Simmons B. Buntin said...

I haven't seen it for fear of all the reasons mentioned above. But also because the person who did this successfully, after coming out of Vietnam (so at least as physically prepared, perhaps, as humanly possible) has a much better story to tell: Doug Peacock, who wrote "The Grizzly Years." That book is much more worth reading than this documentary is worth watching, despite all the press it has, erringly I feel, received.