Grizzly Man | Searching for Salvation

Just been to see Grizzly Man. It’s fantastic.

ImagesFor those who haven’t heard about it, it’s a documentary cut by Werner Herzog, using footage shot by Timothy Treadwell on his summers living among Grizzly Bears in Alaska. It wouldn’t spoil the film for you to know that in his 13th summer there, he and his girlfriend were mauled to death by a one of them.

Images-1Treadwell shot over 100 hours of footage, much of it with him narrating in shot, so there was a wealth of material for Herzog to use, which he intercuts with interviews with friends and others.

What makes the film utterly intriguing is the character of Treadwell himself, who is convinced that he alone is working to protect and save these creatures. It becomes clear that with healthy populations and a functioning nature reserve this is patently not the case. His work is simply not needed, but after a difficult life of failed attempts at other projects, and severe alcoholism, he is desperate to be a saviour to something. He cuts a tragic figure, but is not to be pitied, being totally in love with what he is doing, and totally convinced that he is the only one who can do it.

The film thus becomes a meditation on the human need for salvation. Not so much that we need saving, but that we are desperate to save something, to be something meaningful, to lay our lives down for something.

The question we must therefore ask is, is our life’s work worth it? Are we out to save something that doesn’t need us?

Only on limited release, so try to catch it soon.

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9 responses to “Grizzly Man | Searching for Salvation”

  1. it’s such a great documentary. i believe you are right that it ultimately points out more of treadwell’s need for the bears rather than their need for him. it was interesting to me that treadwell would constantly talk about his relationship with the bears yet every time he would try to interact or touch the bears they would respond with brief moments of aggression.

  2. This is out on DVD here in the states, but my wife insists on renting other movies. I did get to see Born into Brothels, as a compromise.

  3. Not seen too many brothel movies recently, but recommend this 😉
    I think Herzog’s comment about seeing nothing in the eyes of the bears, no affection for Treadwell is really powerful, and quite shocking. I can’t help thinking that there’s something in this for us…

  4. Dana Ames

    It certainly spawned many a media commentary piece when it first came out here.

  5. Didn’t you feel that Herzog’s voice-over completely contradicted Treadwell’s own perceptions of himself?
    Did you notice the parable lurking under the surface about the contradictions between a romantic modernity (Treadwell) and a deconstructionist post-modernity (Herzog)?

  6. Must admit, the Herzog wash was strange. But he’s doubtless a fabulous story-teller. And that makes for a great documentary. In fact, on reflection, that is precisely the beauty of any good documentary: it tells a story that you engage with, argue with, are troubled by, are disturbed by. The film-maker presents their tale, and you are disturbed into having to wrestle with it.
    Love the idea of the modernity/deconstrution axis too. Again, it’s the poles that make the energy in good film pieces. And all the while the bears roam silently in the background, getting hungrier.


    Is the need to create the same as the need to save?

  8. I have heard that this documentary from Mr Herzog is a spoof? Is it? Would it make any difference to the parable lurking underneath?

  9. Interesting idea David, not heard that. Certainly didn’t view like a spoof, though Werner is an odd-ball.
    “Is the need to create the same as the need to save?”
    Fabulous question Damn. As usual.
    I’d say there’s some truth. But perhaps the need to create is the need to be saved? Do artists desire to ‘leave their mark’? Do they create to sanctify, or create to be sanctified?
    Sod this… worth a post, not just a comment.