Friday, February 03, 2006

A Man Apart

Last year it was "Fahrenheit 9/11." The year before it was "Bowling for Columbine." But this year's must-see documentary has eclipsed Michael Moore's standing as America's favorite brainchild of the documentary world. Leading the pack of 2005's real-world film-making is Wernor Herzog's "Grizzly Man."

"Grizzly Man" is about Tim Treadwell's 13 summers spent on Alaska's Kodiak Island, a national park and protected wilderness habitat, living and romping with America's most ferocious beast, the grizzly bear.

If you are looking for a nature film, this is not it. In the first minutes of this documentary, I couldn't help almost giggling as I wondered, is this a self-parody? Is this guy for real? However, as the documentary unfolds, a picture emerges of a gentle, sweet soul who co-exists with wildlife far better than he could with his more sophisticated human counterparts. He could trust his animal "friends" because their motives were primal, not obscured by hidden agendas incomprehensible to his rather immature view of the world. He was a man who couldn't function in society, and he knew it. Living with the bears not only gave meaning to his life, but it gave him companionship of a type that was impossible because of his idiosyncrasies, insecurities and inability to enter into mature relationships. Giving his life to save the already protected bears, while contradictory to the rest of the world, made sense to him, made sense for his life.

Much has been made of Treadwell's mental health in the aftermath of his bloody demise at the hands of one of the bears he claimed to be protecting. After all, not only did he put his own life in jeopardy, but his girlfriend's as well. Her name was Amie Huegenot, and she was with Treadwell, sharing his fate the day the bear turned on Treadwell in a surprise attack, leaving a trail of scattered body parts. Just hours before his demise, Amie held the camera while Treadwell described his life in the wilderness, poignantly declaring the danger that daily threatened his life. In what were his last words to the world, Treadwell declared, "Everyday I am here, giving everything I have to protect these bears, these misunderstood and threatened creatures. I'm proud of myself, I'm proud of what I do. I would die for these bears. I love them."

In the end, this is not a film about Treadwell, even, so much as it is about the sad reality that for people who don't or can't find their niche in society, finding meaning in their lives is often difficult, if not impossible. Treadwell went the way of addiction until his accidental discovery of the bear habitat in Alaska changed the course of his life. Unquestionably, Treadwell lived the last 13 years of his life in harmony – at last – and with meaning. Still troubled by the fact that he was a human and not a bear, he finally met his ultimate fate, the fate that awaits all wildlife. And long after the last frame fades from view, you will feel the impact of the life he lived. He was crazy. He was a narcissist. He had demons. But he was also a person that finally found something worth living – and dying – for. For that, if nothing else, Treadwell's life gives us all something to strive for.

If you are interested, this documentary can be seen tonight on the Discovery Channel. Enjoy.

12 comments:

bunnyjo georg said...

I am feeling no love today. No love at all.

Mom said...

Just because you don't feel it doesn't mean you aren't loved, although I realize that is cold comfort. You know, you really ought to have your own column. I love your reviews, I think they are right on.

DCveR said...

You really got me curious. I wonder if I can get it here at the videoclub...

Im so angry, Im so at ease said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Im so angry, Im so at ease said...

you should also check out the movie; "interview with an assasin" grand fun, and a little weird:D I saw it the first time as a documentary... Total trip:)

the Dad. said...

Interesting....

Yup.

the Dad. said...

Wanna hear something weird?

You do?

Okay, anyhow, the network at the hospital HATES your blog for some reason. It'll refresh everybody elses page (usually), but it's always a couple days behind on yours, so, don't be offended, but sometimes when you don't get prompt comments from me, that's why, I do a lot of my blogging when I should be doing surgery.

Or, I can't think of a reply to your other-worldly posts. See above.

Anonymous said...

love ya with all my little pea pickin heart.....we all do honey.the family are your best friends......chin up and continue your blogs. ONe of the family..is writing this....I know you know....

shortensweet said...

Hey Chick, I was busy. Wanna know what I was doing? Tough. I'm not telling.
Very interesting post..Mom is right,but don't tell her I told her that.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Very interesting, Bunnyjo...makes me think of balance and passion...how do we blend the two...

Mom said...

Oh my gosh...the Treadwell thing was so interesting...I managed to catch the last half hour of the last showing, and due to a busy weekend I was lucky to see that. Now of course I am longing to see the whole thing. Especially in light of your review. It is done documentary style with lots of commentary from people in various relationships with Treadwell, also some expert commentary...so it is very illuminating in many different ways. Really makes you think. And I only saw a half hour...but there was a gory part, very gory. Talk about reality tv.

bunnyjo georg said...

Glad you got to see it, mom. Hope a couple others of you were able to catch it. A friend of mine was deeply saddened, not only by the documentary itself, but by our fascination with watching mentally incapacitated people in the train wrecks that are their lives. I think there is an element of that in this documentary, but more than that it gives you an opportunity to evaluate how you think about other people, to be more understanding and more compassionate. And just maybe it will give us some tools to help someone before these kinds of people self destruct.