Grizzly Man, Dir. Werner Herzog, (2005).
Grizzly Man, directed by Werner Herzog, presents a mixture of actual footage collected from Timothy Treadwell’s archive as well as interviews with his friends and family, conducted by Herzog. Treadwell’s relationship with the Bears and other wildlife is problematic as although he champions conservation he is also arguably interfering with nature just by being in such close proximity to the bears. This self-opposing binary is an interesting premise for the documentary as it means as an audience we are never completely sure of how endeared to Treadwell we can be. As well as bears, foxes also play a prominent role within the film as they take on the place of a mischievous pet dog and keep Treadwell company throughout his periods at the Katmai National Park in Alaska. This human – pet relationship is particularly apparent in a somewhat comical piece of footage where Ghost, a fox, steals Treadwell’s black cap. Treadwell begins by addressing the animal akin to the way in which one might talk to a beloved family pet “Hey little champion! I love you.” A chase scene soon ensues with Treadwell running after Ghost through the trees until he reaches its den. His inability to follow the fox into the den reminds the audience that although Treadwell has built a relationship with this animal, it is ultimately wild and will surpass boundaries that are inaccessible to humans. It is, therefore, not a tame animal and leads the audience to question as to why Treadwell feels so strongly towards it. While chasing the fox, Treadwell shouts and swears, stating how annoyed he is that it has stolen his hat “That hat is so freaking valuable for this trip!” in a farcical manner akin to that which we might expect of a cartoon scene, for example Homer Simpson berating his pet dog, Santa’s Little Helper. There is no technical aspect with regards to the filming of this particular scene as it is taken from a handheld camera, and as such lacks finesse. The ‘raw’, non-scripted, shaky nature of this section of footage is however arguably what makes it such a memorable scene within the documentary. The lack of stability and erratic movements of the camera make the scene authentic and give the audience the opportunity to experience what it is like to be in Treadwell’s world; fully immersed in the natural surroundings, having the boundaries of humans and wild animals blurred and feeling such a strong emotional attachment to the environment of the Katmai National Park.
It is also an interesting scene from the documentary as it highlights a flaw in Treadwell’s apparent altruistic, non-conformist, anti-human nature. Losing a possession that many people would deem easily replaceable and probably relatively inexpensive appears to be the cause of much distress to Treadwell, something that I do not think is expected of him. His need for a material possession that perhaps has sentimental value highlights his inherently human side, something that he appears to be unable to fully change or lose, despite his extended periods of living in the wild.
Scene: YouTube, ‘Fox Steals Timothy Treadwells Hat (Grizzly Man)’, 2015 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbDJtNFld7A> [accessed 09/01/2015]
Image: Ktismatics, ‘Grizzly Man By Herzog, 2005’, 2008 <https://ktismatics.wordpress.com/2008/10/06/grizzly-man-by-herzog-2005/> [accessed 19 January 2015]