Grizzly Man (2005)
August 21, 2022 8:32 AM - Subscribe

Pieced together from Timothy Treadwell's actual video footage, Werner Herzog's remarkable documentary examines the calling that drove Treadwell to live among a tribe of wild grizzly bears on an Alaskan reserve. A devoted conservationist with a passion for adventure, Timothy believed he had bridged the gap between human and beast. When one of the bears he loved and protected tragically turns on him, the footage he shot serves as a window into our understanding of nature and its grim realities.

92% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on Kanopy, and free with commercials on Tubi, Plex, and Pluto TV. Also available for digital rental on multiple outlets .
posted by DirtyOldTown (5 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This was a fascinating, horrifying movie.

Herzog has said a few times in interviews that he's after an "ecstatic truth" rather than a literal truth (forgive me if I'm misquoting- I'm paraphrasing from memory).

I'm guessing this movie was on his mind when he said that.

I got the distinct impression that his interviewees were reading scripted lines (as opposed to conversing naturally in response to questions), but would get emotional nonetheless because the content of what they were saying rang true to them.

I never really thought too much about the artificiality of documentaries before this movie. Wouldn't watch it again, but I'm glad I did see it.
posted by ishmael at 10:02 AM on August 21, 2022

I trained in documentary production 20 years ago and was instilled with Opinions about staging events, but I don't really know what I think of it any more--I think it's obviously a big deal if it substantially misrepresents something, but in some cases it's just, say, Pare Lorentz moving a skull in the desert and I feel like "so what? The animal still died there" (while also wondering "but why move the skull? Did you think you were in the running for a cinematography Oscar?")

I saw this long before I knew that Herzog staged much of his documentary content (in Encounters at the End of the World he apparently had people crouch down to be filmed "listening" to the ice and even told them just how to place their hands). When he mentions "ecstatic truth" it could be about particular scenes in this film, sure, but I wonder if that phrasing is either a reference to (or inspired by) The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner. Maybe at this point, that's just his general approach to the genre.

In any case, with Alex Jones apparently a multi-millionaire, I'm having a hard time getting worked up about Werner Herzog's staging. I guess I'd still trust him to be getting at something recognizably true. Herzog is many things, but I don't take him for callous or a sociopath.
posted by johnofjack at 6:36 PM on August 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

This is a beautiful, harsh film. Just amazing. It managed to explore delusion without minimising or dismissing the humanity of the subject.
posted by Zumbador at 9:56 PM on August 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

Herzog is many things, but I don't take him for callous or a sociopath.

To be clear, I don't think Herzog is any of those things, I was just surprised at the notion that a documentary would have that amount of staging- it never occurred to me before.

I think the film succeeds in conveying the complicated humanity of Timothy Treadwell. I talk to myself in my own room all the time. As Herzog intimates in the film, I can't imagine what months alone in the wilderness would do to me.
posted by ishmael at 10:08 PM on August 21, 2022

It’s been a long time since I’ve watched Grizzly Man, but it’s a film that’s stuck with me. I’ve since watched many other Herzog films, including Nomad recently, which explores the life of Bruce Chatwin and Herzog’s relationship to him. The idea of ecstatic truth, though not called that exactly, is prominent for both Chatwin and Herzog. Herzog discusses Chatwin being loose with facts to reach a deeper truth and that they heavily influenced each other. I’m a Herzog fan, though I’m not anywhere close to making it through his body of work. He’s prolific.
posted by saeva indignatio at 9:51 PM on August 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

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