Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005)

From Forum With No Name:

Part of what makes Herzog's films so fascinating (and I do love some of them) is that I (and some other people, including apparently Kinski) think he's an asshole, and part of the fascination of Grizzly Man was that (as someone put it, I can't remember who) Herzog found an asshole as big as if not bigger than himself.

Treadwell knows his bears, definitely, and loves them to death, but he seems to be the classic case of someone who loved not wisely but all too well--I've been around dogs, cats, chickens, geese and what have you all my life (my mom's a vet), and the one thing you definitely do not do to an animal, any animal, is stick out your finger and try poke him in the nose. I flinched when he did that. If he has all ten fingers when he died, he was very lucky to keep 'em.

Two scenes with Herzog really bugged me (in an interesting way): that scene where he's so solicitious of Treadwell's friend Jewel when you know exactly what he thinks of the man (he advises Jewel not listen to the audio recording of Treadwell's death, to not play it to anyone, to destroy the tape--I almost wanted to laugh my head off he's such a huge hypocrite here). That, and the scene where he listens to the tape, pointedly pressing the headphones to his ears, as if saying "I have the privilege, and you just have to watch me enjoy that privilege." He mentions the tapes, has a good and explicit description of what the tapes hold, and doesn't play them--it's the ultimate tease, maybe matched in audacity only by the interview from the 30 minute doc that follows, where he declares "I'm not making a snuff film, over my dead body is that tape going to be played on my film."

It's a blackly funny, jaw-dropping, appalling film, and yes it's brilliant, and yes I do love it. Doesn't make anyone who appears in it or even the filmmaker himself look good, but that's about par for a Herzog film...

TonyaJ: It could have been the way the film was edited but I didn't read it that way at all (and possibly haven't been exposed to Herzog enough). I thought he respected Treadwell as much for his diligence to filmmaking (sometimes doing 15 takes of a particular scene to try and get it just right) as his devotion to the yes, odd work he did, and many scenes of nature that were caught off the cuff (the feet of the little foxes playing on top of the tent, or wandering into a shot right in front of a grizzly). Ah well.

ChrisJ: I think he saw part of himself in Treadwell. Part of it he liked very much and the other part horrified him and made it importrant for him to make the film.

I also believe the headphones scene was probably a reshoot, a bit of a fake of something that happened. It seems a bit too clean and pre-edited and smooth in how it goes down. And Herzog is known to do such fudges. He has stated there's very little different between the fiction and non-fiction films and he enjoys blurring the lines.

That's not a very flattering portrait of Treadwell he shows onscreen. That whole diatribe against the park service, the pointing out of 'warnings' is embarrassing to Treadwell, and his friends thought so too; they complained about those scenes in that mini doc that followed the film, and wished that Herzog had done otherwise.

I do think Herzog has affection for the man, but as a fellow crackpot and obsessive visionary.

My favorite scene is Treadwell in the tent, demanding that god send rain to start the salmon run and feed the bears. It was, oh, I don't know, but I was on the floor, and I could barely move.

ted fontenot: To say that Grizzly Man the movie seems to be ambivalent about its protagonist would be an enormous understatement. If ever someone was monomaniacally intent on winning a Darwin Award it was Treadwell. He is so extreme, so fucking out of it, that it is impossible to emotionally identify with him. There was a man completely incapable of knowing and accepting reality. And I do not mean this in a good way, either. He's no hero--he's too insane. Herzog seems to sense this, but seems confounded by it. He can't believe the guy. It's like Herzog didn't trust his instinctive response--he wanted to despise Treadwell, to be revolted by him, but Treadwell brought out such a confused response in him that Herzog couldn't summon the courage to let him have it with both barrels, like Treadwell deserved. So Herzog just continually circles around it, continually hedging his bets. Very powerful movie, very powerfully unsatisfying.

Nerdy Chick: Let's just say that when he died, I wasn't the least bit surprised.Ted Fontenot: Talk about bringing home naturalism's truth that this is indeed a pitiless universe, though. I mean, four garbage bags of human remains were eviscerated from that bear. Jesus.

Also, I'm ambivalent about Herzog's decision not to attempt to use the audio of the attack. He tries to make his refusal to even contemplate using it an issue of solemn human respect (that it was unthinkable--why?). I don't know. . . . I'll have to think about that.

ChrisJ: Why? He certainly realized there was real exploitation value in playing those tapes for everyone to hear them. Yet the exploitation was only slightly less by NOT playing them and it was the RIGHT and dignified thing to do. He had control perhaps over playing them or not. I think he insisted on them being destroyed (don't know if they were though--but I'll bet they were) to also remove temptation from himself and others to go after them and try to exploit them further.

No, Jewel didn't destroy the tape.

TonyaJ: You know, I think Herzog was right though in what he said to her. That it would forever be a white Elephant in the room, if she didn't.

Hell, it's already a white elephant in his film. In any q & a, the one question always asked is 'why didn't you play the tape?' They would say 'it's because we didn't feel it was appropriate to the film, and it was a big violation of the dead's privacy, next question" and the next question would always be: 'no, seriously, why DIDN'T you play it?'

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