A review of “Grizzly Man” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for language

Run Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

 

 

Controversial director Werner Herzog explores the tragic life and death of troubled wildlife preservationist Timothy Treadwell with novel results.

Treadwell was a gentle warrior, an unorthodox, non-invasive soul who perched on the precipice of death by spending thirteen summers in the Alaskan wilderness marking time with the grizzlies.

His is a story of astonishing beauty and dark turmoil. Treadwell crossed an unspoken frontier and established himself in the grizzly hierarchy, taking care to capture every moment of his life’s calling on videotape.

That it went terribly awry is not surprising. Treadwell was increasingly paranoid about poachers, conservationists and human beings in general.  He fancied himself an obsessive guardian of the grizzlies and their remote and vicious mystery.

Herzog seems equally fascinated and repelled by his subject, admiring Treadwell’s relentless spirit while puzzling over what he sees as the overwhelming indifference of nature to man. His narration is dry and unintentionally funny -- craggy snow peaks become a metaphor for a demon-battling soul -- but he never wavers from the task at hand.

Was Treadwell a classic nut job or a visionary environmentalist? Is the surviving footage a monument to a colossal ego or the result of an extreme passion without boundaries? In the capable hands of Herzog both questions and answers are a twisted delight.