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Favorite Films: Grizzly Man (2005)

Timothy Treadwell in Alaska’s Katmai National Park

Over the last thirty years, some of my favorite movies were directed by Werner Herzog. So when I screened his Grizzly Man for myself, I was not surprised to find that it was nothing short of amazing. Its subject, Timothy Treadwell as to grizzly bears what Aussie Steve Irwin was to crocodiles and other dangerous denizens of the wild. In the end, both men died because they were exposed to one too many dangers. In the case of Treadwell and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard, they were eaten by a bear that Treadwell failed to charm.

There was always something strange about Treadwell with his Prince Valiant blonde mop. (He had failed to win the role of Woody Boyd in Cheers that was filled by Woody Harrelson.) He spent his summers in Alaska’s Katmai National Park trying to convince us that grizzlies were like warm and fuzzy Teddy Bears. He even camped with a favorite Teddy Bear, as well as a girlfriend.

After Treadwell and Huguenard’s death, German filmmaker Werner Herzog made Grizzly Man, but probably not as Treadwell would have liked. Much of the footage was actually from Treadwell himself, and showed him in his various moods—including defiance at the National Park Service. He did not like to be reminded by them that what he was doing was dangerous. Unlike Steve Irwin, he downplayed the dangers of closeness with the bears. What amazes me was not that he was eventually attacked and devoured by them than that he survived as long as he did.

Grizzly Bear

In his and his girlfriend’s last few minutes on earth, Treadwell was actually filming. Because of the circumstances, he did not have a chance to remove the lens cap, so all he had was an audio track. In Grizzly Man, we see Herzog listening to this track in the presence of one of his associates, Jewel Palovak. Upon finishing, he hands the tape to Palovak and recommends that she destroy it. She did the next best thing: Instead of listening to it, she had it placed in a bank vault. Nobody wants to have his or her dreams turn into nightmares from listening to the death of someone they had loved.

Herzog believes that Treadwell was a disturbed individual with a death wish. Treadwell’s own footage, much of which appears in the Herzog film, bears this out. In fact, I was so disturbed that I had disturbing nightmares the night after I saw the film.\

 

4 thoughts on “Favorite Films: Grizzly Man (2005)

  1. I’ve been horse camping for years and have alot of respect for the forest and wilderness areas. I always go with experienced friends whose horses are also experienced and we take dogs. My German Shepherd Sheba is friendly to people but an excellant alert dog to wildlife. She also is trained to instant voice recall ( for her own safety!) I never camp without her. In my experience those who are adrenaline rush junkies are at most risk of injuries, and also those who don’t prepare carefully or have too much confidence. We always take a well supplied medical emergency kit, plenty of water and food – and lock that food up tight so as to not attract animals. I think the best protection is experience and dogs but also common sense and not taking any chances. If I have a horse who acts very nervous we leave and camp somewhere else. I trust my horses! I’ve known them for 15 + years and I listen to them! I have two friends who have seen something that was like Sasquatch ( who knows) and they have heard calls in the woods that did not seem like coyotee, or wolves. so there is that as well. I’d leave if I thought I was encroaching on Sasquatch territories.

  2. I just want the dog to warn me, not try to take on the Grizzly. No doubt a Grizzly could make short work of a dog or even several. So we just trust out dogs instincts and call them and leave. Dogs absolutely must be capable of recall immediately. Ive worked a ton with my German Shepherd. I wouldn’t take my Great Pyrenees Samson camping because he marches to his own drummer and he would go after a bear no matter what I said to him!! ( he weighs 170 pounds but I still doubt he could survive a Grizzly!)
    I’ve never met a Grizzly thank heavens. Black bears and cougars ( common in Oregon) have always avoided us. At home I live on 27 acres surrounded by timberland and there are cougars. My neighbors have had their chickens and cats and goats killed by cougar. But I have not because I have a Great Pyrenees dog, and my German Shepherd who patrol the fenced in property. The cougars just go elsewhere if you have dogs like these and don’t kennel them so they can’t do their job.
    I want to live in harmony with wildlife if I can. Its their land too.

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