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Chris Knipp
08-25-2005, 02:22 AM
Werner Herzog: Grizzly Man (2005)

An important lesson about man and nature

Review by Chris Knipp

For thirteen years "grizzly man" Timothy Treadwell went to an Alaskan wildlife refuge on Kodiak Island and pitched his tent alone -- and the last couple of times with a girlfriend (Amy Huguenard) -- spending the summers among huge grizzly bears. The rest of the year he went to schools and "free of charge" showed his films of the bears and his exploits. When the last of his summers drew to a close he and his girlfriend died among the grizzlies as he'd always known -- and even David Letterman had pointed out -- that he might. Filmmaker Werner Herzog, longtime student of crazy eccentric loners on heroic doomed quests, has taken on Treadwell's life and personality as the subject of a rare and powerful documentary.

At the heart of Grizzly Man are Herzog's selective cullings from film Treadwell left behind chronicling both the bears and -- with poignancy and openness -- his own demons, passions, and wish-fulfillment fantasies. Herzog has added interviews with women in Treadwell's life, with his parents, with the pilot who took him to and from his campgrounds and later found his and his girlfriend's remains, and with Franc Fallico, the unusually sympathetic and sensitive -- and perhaps a bit looney -- coroner who examined these. The director has bound it all together with his own frank and idiosyncratic narration. The result is a rare sober look at the more delusional aspects of man's relations to wild animals.

At times Herzog by implication sympathetically links Treadwell with his former principle star and sparring partner, the late mad eccentric actor Klaus Kinski. Like Kinski Treadwell had tantrums on a film set. But his set was the outdoors and there was no director to spar with; his sparring partners were nature and his own troubled psyche. Nature contained, of course, living witnesses, chief among them the grizzly bears he knows can kill him. He repeatedly tells the camera how much he loves them. He loves the gentler, smaller foxes near whose dens he pitches his tents during the second halves of his summer sojourns. He tells the camera you must be firm with the bears, and he says he knows how to handle them, even though he also repeatedly says he knows he may die there.

He is a gambler. Is he a complex man, or merely a confused one? Is he brave, or just foolhardy? What is his purpose in spending all this time among the grizzlies? Is he gathering information, or taking refuge among creatures he need not please, only keep a safe distance from (though he continually comes closer to bears than the park rules and good sense require)? He has a soft sissified manner and voice and even says he wishes he were gay. But he also rants and rages embarrassingly and tiresomely against unseen enemies, poachers, sightseers, rangers, hunters, park officials, the whole urban settled world he runs from to this world he idealizes and blindly sees as perfect.

As Herzog notes, Treadwell sought to disregard nature's cruelty, and any time it was in his face -- as when the bears were starving in a dry spell and began eating their own young -- he sought to manipulate nature to eliminate the ugliness. He faulted not the bears but the rain gods. Then when his atheist's prayers are answered and torrential rains do in fact come, Treadwell is comic -- not for the first time -- trapped for days in his collapsed tent.

Young Timothy according to his parents was an ordinary boy who loved animals from childhood and got a diving scholarship to college. But he injured his back and quit college and he drank and when he went to LA to act and didn't get a part on Cheers he "spiraled down." He never had a lasting relationship with a woman and the drinking became serious and constant. In vain he tried programs, meetings, self-discipline -- but the drinking went on and was killing him. Finally he got sober for the grizzlies and the foxes. He decided to devote his life to them and he pledged to them that he would be clean and healthy. It was a miracle. Yet he remained not only manic-depressive but passive-aggressive, as his constant on-camera alternations between gentle declarations of love of the animals and his spewing of vitriol against the civilized world attest.

Treadwell's soft-voiced declarations of love and sweetness among the grizzlies would be beautiful -- if such behavior, in a world of extreme physical risk, surrounded by limber lumbering beasts with great teeth and long claws, while preening for the camera with caps and bandanas and golden locks in a dozen alternate takes -- were not criminally silly and irresponsible. Herzog hides none of this in his portrait, which is both sympathetic and ruthless.

As the years passed the Grizzly Man found transitions back to civilization harder and harder to make. On the last occasion, an airport official infuriated him by questioning the validity of his ticket and he turned around with his girlfriend -- who was afraid of bears! -- and returned to the "maze," the most dangerous of his summer campgrounds because it wasn't in the open where the bears could see him and steer clear but among their burrows and the brush. It was later than he ever stayed and the bears he knew and had names for were hibernating now, replaced by new unknown and more hostile and nasty animals. He must also have been more desperate, perhaps more careless? We see the bear that probably devoured him and poor Amy.

Herzog has access to everything, even an audio-only tape of Timothy and Amy's truly grizzly death. He spares us, though. He didn't want to make a snuff film.

As Herzog begins his film by stating, Timothy Treadwell crossed a line between wild animal and human that should never be crossed. It's a line many touchy-feely "nature" and "wildlife" films also cross: see the recent March of the Penguins and you'll have a prime example. Grizzly Man isn't meant to be about grizzlies. It's about men who cross that line -- who willfully misunderstand nature for their own misguided reasons, to serve their own dysfunctional needs. A depressing but important film.


Posted on Chris Knippwebsite. (http://www.chrisknipp.com/writing/viewtopic.php?t=457)

wpqx
08-28-2005, 01:38 AM
I think that Herzog found a kindered spirit in Treadwell. They were both lunatics willing to go out in the wild (Herzog in the jungle, Treadwell in the maze) and for the sake of their art. But as Herzog mentions the key difference between them is that he blieves the world thrives on chaos, wheras Treadwell believes that there is harmony and balance. I believe that Herzog uses his ideology to somewhat slant the film. Had Treadwell not had such an ironic death, then perhaps we might agree more with his views, but the simple fact that very bears he was trying to protect were the cause of his death, Herzog can't resist knowing that he's right.

The footage used of Treadwell is hardly polished. Herzog is content to show you all the alternate takes, the empty shots, the dizzying shots of Timothy running with a camera. He is not out to make a sleek observational nature film (ala Penguins), instead he wants to show the unseen beauty in film, and in particular Treadwell's films. He believes there is something in his films that perhaps he wasn't even aware was there. A short take of the wind blowing trees, or a short shot of a fox on his tent.

Timothy Treadwell is a tragic figure in many ways. Sure he knew what he was getting into and that the bears could kill him at any moment, and many anti-environmentalists will point and laugh at him for being a dumb ass to go out there in the first place. Yet it is what drives him out there. The harshness of man, his absense of real human interaction. His problems with women in particular. There is an identity problem, hence the story of his Australian heritage that he made up. He is finding himself in the wild though, and more and more he is finding that's where he wants to be. Free from other people who obviously don't seem to understand him.

I'll possibly add more later, but well sometimes too much reading can cause your pupils to dialate.

Chris Knipp
08-28-2005, 02:40 AM
I think I covered most of what you said. But your way of defining the key difference between Timothy and Werner is odd. It's more nature as benign vs. nature as hostile. Treadwell's pretense of a tame and friendly bear is false and dangerous. His behavior ultimately could make an anti-environmentalist of anyone. "Treadwell is a tragic figure in many ways." Really is that all you can come up with? It's more complex than that. Watch it again.

"Had Treadwell not had such an ironic death, then perhaps we might agree more with his views." No. But Herzog would not have made a film.

wpqx
08-28-2005, 11:41 AM
I found the guy pathetic. No friends in the real world, so he had to travel to Alaska and live with Bears to feel love. Sure there were some people that he interacted with in the "human world", but he remains tragic in my eyes. I just think Treadwell is looking for something to define himself. The film is a search for who he really is, and as Herzog I believe concluded, nobody really knows the real Timothy. The character is complicated, and Treadwell believes he is finding himself out in the wilderness.

I think the key to his personality comes when one of his friends tells about when they tried to medicate him for his bi-polar disorder. Treadwell can't take the medicine because "I need the highs, as well as the lows". He remains a man of extremes.

I was slightly surprised that Herzog left the audio of his death out of the film. I know most directors would have avoided it, but I thought Herzog was the envelope pusher that would have subjected us to that painfully uncomfortable piece of audio. The person I went with was actually a little disappointed that we didnt' get to hear it. I for one was glad, that would have been a little too much, and as you said, it would have made it a snuff film and more sensationalist.

Still enjoyed the film a hell of a lot however. As far as seeing it again, that probably won't happen for a damn long time. It was a one hour drive just to get to this theater, and I got much more to see.

Chris Knipp
08-28-2005, 05:40 PM
1.
I found the guy pathetic. No friends in the real world, so he had to travel to Alaska and live with Bears to feel love. Sure there were some people that he interacted with in the "human world", but he remains tragic in my eyes.I don't question your basic reading of the film, but since there are important differences between tragic and pathetic that these comments somewhat blur, I still prefer my word, tragi-comic. "No friends in the real world" is also an overstatement which the interviews with several very devoted friends belie (remember the actor). He undoubtedly had trouble succeeding in any work or fitting in in the world, it's true. But friends he did have.
The character is complicated, and Treadwell believes he is finding himself out in the wilderness. Certainly true, but what makes this a great film is that Herzog is partly finding himself too, so we are actually finding both men through Grizzly Man.

2.
With the narrowing gap between theater and DVD release, your wait for a second viewing may not be such a "damn long time."

3.
As I should have said perhaps, but left out for the sake of simplicity, "We're not going to make a snuff movie" was what Herzog said in an interview (http://www.latimes.com/travel/outdoors/la-os-treadwell2aug02,1,7111567.story?ctrack=1&cset=true) , not my personal choice of words. Herzog's use of the audio-only tape of Tim and Amy's death is considerably more significant and germane to Herzog's concerns than merely hearing the tape would be. We've heard people groan and wail before. In the scene, he listens to the tape with Treadwell's closest female friend, and then says he thinks she should dispose of it. This is such an important moment that it is the only time we get a glimpse of Herzog himself. The exchange in this LATimes interview contextualizes the tape data in a more complex way than the mere audio would:


Q: Had you done that before, interjected yourself into a film?

A: Not to such a degree. In this case, I did not want to appear in person in the movie with the exception of one key moment where I'm listening to the tape [an audiotape of Treadwell and Huguenard's final moments as they're being attacked by a bear]. I was allowed to listen to the tape, and it was instantly clear: We're not going to make a snuff movie. It's not going to be in the film. And, actually, I'm not important in this moment. You see me from the back with earphones on. But you see the face of the woman who owns the tape who was very close to Treadwell. She's trying to read my face. [She has never heard the tape.] Like almost a mirror image of my face and the anguish on her face. It [the scene] has great intensity and great anguish. This is also another comment on your statement, "No friends in the real world." I recommend this interview, as a valuable commentary on Herzog's intentions and his experience in making the film.

wpqx
08-28-2005, 08:44 PM
The no friends comment was more from Treadwell's perspective. Yes we talked to people who cared about him, but he had a self appointed image as a loner in the wilderness, hence the reason he never even included any of his occasional companions in his film. HE doesn't seem to acknowledge these people who do care about him.

What I mean about a long time before seeing it again, I still have several thousand movies I've never seen once, so the priority of Grizzly Man on a second viewing isn't very high.

Chris Knipp
08-29-2005, 01:03 AM
All we know of Treadwell's point of view is in the film, which points out he depicts himself as alone to appear, in Herzog's words, "the lone warrior" or "the lone ranger," even when his girlfriend was there with him; to dramatize his role and make it seem heroic, to be a star. But while some rangers saw him as crazy or retarded, there is nowhere in Grizzly Man that depicts T.T. as either being or seeing himself as actually friendless. Hope you looked at the Herzog interview. Or another one; there are many. One thing Herzog makes clear in the film and interviews is that Amy was prepared to die to defend Timotny, even though she was on the point of breaking up with him. So she was a friend, and more than a friend, though Herzog says in another interview she had accused him fo being "hellbent for destruciton." He had trouble maintaining lasting relationships with women but he clearly bonded with them deeply. We don't know that he never acknowledged them, just because he edited them out of his "heroic" footage of himself in the wilds. To say that he had no friends or claimed to have no friends is not justified by the content of the film.

Johann
09-07-2005, 04:09 PM
Excellence, guys.

Really looking forward to this.

Herzog is a God to me, and his White Diamond is something I'm dying to see. It plays here at the VIFF in Oct.

wpqx
09-08-2005, 10:12 AM
I was gonna see White Diamond, but found out the DVD is coming out next month, so I'll wait.

oscar jubis
10-06-2005, 12:13 AM
"Grizzly man" Timothy Treadwell fits rather snugly among the protagonists of Werner Herzog's films_real people like woodcarver and ski-flyer Walter Steiner and Dieter Dengler, who came close to being attacked by a "beautiful bear" in a Laos jungle; or fictional characters such as Don Lope Aguirre and Bruno Stroszek. Herzog has been fascinated for decades with obsessed, delusional, death-defying oddballs. Yet, to this viewer, the strongest character correlation is not with any other Herzog subject but with Jonathan Caouette, the writer/director/protagonist of Tarnation.

Both Treadwell and Caouette are self-exposing, recovered substance abusers who cultivate a drama-queen persona and have achieved notoriety through video confessionals. This association is probably due to the fact that about half of Grizzly Man consists of footage taken by Treadwell himself, footage that has a strong fictional element. Faced with his failure to get a part in somebody else's movie or TV show, Threadwell created a role for himself based on his passion for wild animals, bears in particular. It's a part he played for about 10 weeks per year, we know very little about what he was like when he wasn't playing this death-defying loner out on remote Alaska.

Another personal reaction to the film consists of viewing it as a case history on bipolar disorder_the term "manic-depressive" is infinitely more descriptive yet obsolete. Treadwell exhibits all the classic symptoms of the disorder. He has decided not to treat it because he "needs the highs and lows", and that's his right. I can't help to think of his coming into proximity with unfamiliar, more aggressive bears as the type of impulsive behavior that a moderate dosage of medication might have prevented, but I'm aware this is pure conjecture on my part.

I would like to point out that I think the review by Chris Knipp is one of his best of the year_one can't possibly describe a bear in three words better than "limber lumbering beasts". My comments are relatively brief because I don't want to be redundant and restate something Knipp already said. I wish he'd expand on his considering the film or the lesson of the film "important", and I know he would if he wasn't extremely busy watching and reviewing films at the NYFF right now. I found the alluded lesson too obvious and the single-oddball subject too narrow to refer to Herzog's excellent and engaging doc as "important", but I remain open to any arguments to the contrary.

wpqx
10-06-2005, 10:57 AM
I never thought about the Tarnation reference, but now that you mention it, there is definately a correlation.

arsaib4
10-25-2005, 12:31 AM
Man attempting to surmount nature, and failing miserably, has long been an obsession of German filmmaker/documentarian Werner Herzog -- his work during the 70's most ardently dealt with that. In his latest effort, Grizzly Man, Herzog has found a way to retread the concept through Timothy Treadwell, a man who spent 13 summers in the Alaskan nature preserve, often breaking laws in order to get closer to the grizzly bears he apparently cared for. The documentary consists of excerpts from the over 100 hours of footage Treadwell mostly shot himself over the course of 5 summers before him and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, were killed by one of the bears in October, 2003. (I won’t get into other details since Chris has done a good job above.)

Early on in the film, it’s hard not to sympathize with Treadwell and his passion, but slowly and surely, it becomes apparent that he wanted recognition (not fame, necessarily). It’s obvious to me that his accomplishment led him to believe that he’s superior to other humans in a way ("You won’t fucking survive here like I did," he once says looking directly into the camera), something he always aimed for, rather than it allowed him to strive to "become a bear," which is what we hear from various "professionals."

Having said that, we need to be careful regarding making an ultimate judgment. After all, Herzog has given us only a few minutes of, as I mentioned earlier, over 100 hours of footage. What we watched fitted well with Herzog’s overall agenda. It’s quite possible that if another documentarian would’ve taken on the subject, we’d be discussing something different. Still, in this doc, which is overall well put together, Herzog’s should’ve dug deeper into Treadwell’s contentious relationship with Huguenard, which we discovered through his diary entries. The bear who killed them (and then later got shot) was provided more attention than the girl.

And Herzog’s penchant for details of their gory deaths was primarily incorporated in order to go around what he didn’t wanted to do: let us hear the audio tape. I have mixed feeling on that. Is it more "noble" to have an overly excited forensic-embalmer(?) explain how the bear tore into Treadwell’s skull, or would Herzog have been able to make his obvious point by employing an artistic means? I recall Mexican director Alejandro González Ińárritu’s mastery of sound editing in the anthology titled 11'09''01 - September 11 (2002) in which his segment simply consisted of screams of people jumping from the buildings after the attack. It was a moving and devastating account and not simply a technical showcase. But if Herzog was going to stay away from the sounds, then he shouldn’t have tried to recreate a scene where he listens to the tape and then informs Treadwell’s former girlfriend to throw it away. It teases us more than anything else. Not good.

However, what follows is the film’s most astonishing and, to some, possibly disturbing scene: Two bears fight it out for the "Michelle Pfeiffer of bears," as Treadwell later notes. Herzog rightfully remains quiet during the sequence, which culminates with his protagonist recognizing the laws of nature while sitting not far away for the fallen bear. This is where Treadwell feels like a human being, one who’s brave enough to be right there. (He also spoke about the possibility of his death on numerous occasions; practically he knew that his end would be through the animals he loved most.)

The filmmaker’s best moments, however, do comprise of his commentary, at times running along Treadwell’s. Herzog doesn’t allow us to make a connection between his subject here and his "favorite" actor Klaus Kinski -- he makes it himself: "[Treadwell]’s rage is almost incandescent, artistic. The actor in his film has taken over from the filmmaker. I have seen this madness before on the film set." This was after Treadwell’s profanity-laden rant against the Alaskan park services. (The disappointing part is that the bears were doing perfectly fine. There are many, many other species out there that could’ve used him.) And then later on, it’s Treadwell who provides him with the close-up of a bear’s face, making Herzog conclude that "in all the faces of all the bears that Treadwell ever filmed, I discover no kinship, no understanding, no mercy. I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature."

Nature is cruel. Most of us recognize that, I think. But it’s also beautiful and majestic. While the focus here is certainly on the former, Herzog duly notes that Treadwell’s images, unwittingly, often consisted of the lush green hills and valleys in the region, not to mention the rivers and the lakes that surrounded them. But ultimately the filmmaker believes that the common denominator here is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder. Looking at the direction we seem to be headed in, he just might be right.


Grizzly Man - Grade: B

___________________________

*The doc is currently in theaters. It will available on DVD on Dec 27th.

Chris Knipp
11-29-2005, 01:52 PM
I'm just now getting gack to this thread. I must not be subscribed to it.

Belated thanks to Oscar for his extravagantly kind words about my review. It's been a while and many other movies since I saw Grizzly Man, but I definitely think it's one of the best documentaries of this year or any year in recent memory. This is not so much for the beauty of the footage or the brilliance of the construction, as for the importance of the ideas contained therein, and Herzog's honesty and presence. There is the "fly on the wall" kind of documentary, and of recent ones I'd say Ętre et avoir/To Be and to Have is the best example of that I can cite; and there is the openly committed and directly, personally involved kind, of which the best recent example is My Architect. Herzog's Grizzly Man is of the second kind. Yes, Herzog felt a kinship with Treadwell, but he also saw that Treadwell was seriously deluded and his purpose in Grizzly Man is to tell the story of this delusion and its tragic consequences. arsaib makes this clear when he says "Early on in the film, it’s hard not to sympathize with Treadwell and his passion, but slowly and surely, it becomes apparent...." -- and he thereafter explains that Treadwell wanted fame and had delusions of grandeur in ways that, by implication, we can't sympathize with. I differ with arsaib on some points, but we're together on this.

Later it becomes clear that arsaib has lost sight of the most important issue in the whole film: that of Treadwell's anthromorphizing and cutesyfying bears, which are not our friends, not domestic animals, and very dangerous to be around. Herzog is clear and emphatic about his stand on this, that nature in the wild is alien and dangerous to man, and that Treadwell was living and promulgating a lie. Let me be clear about myself: I agree. I personally have no sympathy for people who romanticize nature. arsaib takes note of a duality in nature ("Nature is cruel...But it is also beautiful and majestic") but he doesn't make clear what the film is ultimately about, namely the failure to deal appropraitely with nature and to recognize its dangers.

This is why I brought in the comparison with March of the Penguins, an example of what I call the "touchy feely" approach to nature, and the anthropmorphizing of alien creatures. I've heard that the sentimental US narration differs starkly from the French one on this, but I haven't heard the French one so I can't say. Certainly the footage of March of the Penguins itself is remarkable; it's the narration that is offensive. It may not be so dangerous to pet a penguin or get close to one, I don't know. But the Penguin film at least with the US narration fails to adequately acknowledge how alien they are to us and how hostile and dangerous to us is the environment in which they live.

I think arsaib is on the wrong track in implying that Herzog failed to investigate Treadwell's relationship with his girlfriend in enough detail and that doing so would somehow have made his documentary about the Grizzly Man significantly different. It's pretty clear that Treadwell provided very scant information about anyone other than himself and the bears and there's no reason to assume there are some key secrets about the relationship with the woman that are lurking there, waiting to create a very different documentary. Herzog was made to make this documentary, and Treadwell was made to be his subject. It seems very odd, not to say dense, to speculate that somebody else might make a better, or even significantly different, documentary about the same subject. All one could expect from another filmmaker would be a more watered-down version, probably one with a more limited perspective. Oscar is right in commenting that Treadwell is a psychological type, and one could look at him from the bi-polar standpoint; but that would still be a part of what Herzog already takes account of in his film, though he focuses elsewhere -- as did Treadwell.

In fact if arsaib recalls, we do hear part of the audio tape of Treadwell's and his girlfriend's deaths. We just don't hear it down to the grim finale. Why doing so would somehow be essential and revelatory and not just gruesome is a point that elludes me. Herzog's intervention with the lady and assertion that she should destroy the tape I think is a very moral thing and one of the film's finest moments, though it may be hard to understand at first. Overall, the idea that Herzog could have studied a hundred hours of video and somehow come up with odd conclusions others would not agree with seems also quite odd to me. The tapes of Treadwell speak for themselves. They cover a wide range of behaviors and moods. There's little reason to suppose that the nature of the videos has been distorted by Herzog's choices.

I think these points about the death tape and Treadwell's relationship with Amie Huguenard are side issues; not only are the questions about Herzog's treatment of them relatively unimportant quibbles, but they lead arsaib away from the central ideas of the film. And this is a film about ideas. To expand on my point as Oscar requests about the lesson of the film being "important": our falsifying of nature can be taken further -- to this present government's falsifying of the dangers to the environment of ignoring the effects of human pollution. If the planet is being allowed to devolve and our coastlines and cities and the health of our grandchildren are all in very serious jeopardy, this is in a sense a consequence of the view that nature is benign. If it's benign, it will take care of itself; we don't have to worry about it. Likewise if it is wonderfully noble and powerful, it will take care of itself. But unfortunately both ideas are now false: nature is not benign -- it never has been. And it is not so powerful that humans cannot do irreparable damage to the planet. They have done so. Or at least, the damage is beginning to look more and more like it could be irreparable. Even if the planet can be saved -- admittedly a hubristic and mistaken notion, because we don't know what the future holds for it; but we can try -- the extent of the alterations that have taken place demonstrably as a result of human activities is now so great, that we are going to have to suffer a lot of damage to our lifestyles and to our habitations.

Again, I still conclude, from the perspective of some months since my original viewing of it, that this is a very fine film. I have the greatest respect for my colleague arsaib's judgment, his ability as a writer of reviews, and his extensive knowledge of the movies, but nonetheless in this case I have to disagree strongly; hence I find arsaib's grading it with a mediocre "B" unjustifiable. If I gave grades to filmmakers or films, I'd give it and Werner Herzog an A+ for Grizzly Man and still consider that an understatement.

arsaib4
11-29-2005, 07:44 PM
I’m surprised you haven’t noticed by now that, unlike others, I try my best to not go over the same content if I make to make a post on a film that’s already been covered (besides Grizzly Man, my post on A History of Violence is also an example of that). So, I didn’t lose sight of the most important, and obvious, issue in the entire film.

As I said earlier, Herzog picked and chose what fitted snugly in his overall scheme of things. But he had to bring up Huguenard because, after all, she died with Treadwell. Don’t assume that he provided little info about their contentious relationship; it’s Herzog who’s in control here. Going further with this would not create a different doc -- I think it would create an even more meaningful one.

You might agree that I didn’t imply that Treadwell’s end on the audio tape was "essential and revelatory"; I simply explained an example of another way it could’ve been approached. But I strongly disagree that the dramatized scene between Herzog and Treadwell’s former girlfriend is "one of the film’s finest moments."

My review is a positive one, as my grade indicates. But I believe that Herzog's recent work has been overrated by many (I haven’t yet seen The White Diamond).

Chris Knipp
11-30-2005, 02:33 AM
I see your point of view and way of operating, but I still don't agree with your evaluation even though it is positive. I'm very up on this movie.

arsaib4
12-01-2005, 12:39 AM
Frankly it's difficult to decipher from your review that you're "very up on this movie" and are willing to give it an "A+." You discuss various pertinent issues in good detail, but you only end with "A depressing but important film." That's not exactly high praise.

Chris Knipp
12-01-2005, 01:09 AM
The truth is often depressing and it is rare that we get it. Important isn't a word I use lightly.

arsaib4
12-01-2005, 01:32 AM
Good.

Howard Schumann
01-22-2006, 02:23 PM
GRIZZLY MAN

Directed by Werner Herzog (2005)

In 100 years of keeping records in Alaska, less than 12 people have been killed by grizzly bears, according to German director Werner Herzog. Herzog's film Grizzly Man documents two of them, the first known bear killings in Alaska's 4.7 million-acre Katmai National Park. In October 2003, the bodies of environmentalist Timothy Treadwell and his friend Amie Huguenard were found near Kaflia Bay when a pilot arrived to pick them up and take them to Kodiak Island. A starving thousand-pound, 28-year-old male grizzly, unknown to the area had mauled Treadwell and Huguenard to death. The film tells the story of the self-styled protector of bears and co-author of the book "Among Grizzlies: Living With Wild Bears in Alaska."

Treadwell spent more than a dozen summers living with bears in the area he called the Grizzly Maze and videotaped over 100 hours of footage during the last five years. Complemented by narration from Herzog, Treadwell tells his own story in front of the camera. He was an aspiring actor who dealt with drug and alcohol problems in California before he moved to Alaska in the summer of 1989. It is unclear how much of his determination to live among the bears resulted from his love of nature or from his need to escape his problems at home. In any event, he became a friend to the bears and developed a brash confidence around them, giving them names such as Mr. Chocolate, the Grinch and Sgt. Brown, and often getting so close he could touch them. Though the image of Treadwell is of being reckless and foolhardy, according to John Rogers, owner of Coastal Bear Tours who knew him, "his (Treadwell's) knowledge and understanding of bears was equal to the experience of any commercial bear viewing guide or bear specialist in Katmai National Park, better than most".

Far from being delusional or failing to deal appropriately with nature and recognize its dangers, Rogers says, "he was not one to blithely walk up to a bear, he was cautious, even fearful, around bears he didn’t know, but he developed relationships and mutual trust with a few individual bears over the years". Though the film raises complex questions that do not lend themselves to easy answers, it has nonetheless been seized upon by the corporate media to denounce environmentalists and those who dare to live on the edge of society. Treadwell has been called a nut, a certified madman, foolish, obsessive, an egomaniac, bipolar, paranoid and schizophrenic. While his on-camera behavior is often bizarre and at times repugnant, we don't know how much this represents who Treadwell really was or even whether Mr. Herzog selected particular footage to produce a desired effect.

Bizarre or not, the fact remains that Timothy did what he said. He lived in open and honest communication with wild animals for thirteen long years, a feat that required mental and physical toughness, endurance, and commitment. In the process, he educated thousands of children by speaking in schools without compensation, and founded "Grizzly People", an organization devoted to preserving bears and their wilderness habitat. Though he does express admiration for his filmmaking ability, Herzog makes clear his antipathy to much of what Treadwell stands for. He refers to environmental activists as "tree huggers" and sees nature as "chaotic, hostile, and murderous". Treadwell's nature photography is beautiful, showing things that we may have never seen before, particularly a fight between two huge bears, yet Herzog cannot resist getting in a dig at unions with his remark that his footage is something "studio directors with their union crews could never dream of".

Grizzly Man, under Herzog's direction, veers toward the sensational. In one sequence Treadwell demonstrates the emotional maturity of an eleven-year old in an expletive-laden rant against the Park Service, but the sequence has no timeframe and no context. Herzog also criticizes Treadwell's celebrity status, describing him as "a star by virtue of his own invention." (He had appeared on David Letterman's Late Show, the Discovery Channel's Discovery Sunday, and other television programs.) Although interviews with people who knew Treadwell appear to be balanced, some of them seem staged for melodramatic effect. Herzog films Timothy's parents awkwardly clinging to Treadwell's childhood Teddy bear and we watch as he presents Timothy's still ticking watch to a former girlfriend, Jewel Palovak in a bizarre sequence that feels contrived. In another scene that can only be described as maudlin, the director listens to the audio tape of the bear attack (pretending to hear it for the first time) and cautions Jewel never to listen to it, yet at the same time titillating us with its contents.

Many critics have called Treadwell delusional for thinking he was protecting the bears. Yet perhaps the most telling fact is that during his time in Katmai, no bear was known to have been killed by poachers. In the first year after his death, five bears were poached. According to leading Alaskan conservationist and filmmaker Joel Bennett, "The recent poaching of bears in Katmai National Park shows that Alaskans should never be complacent about the protection of their treasured wildlife resources. Tim Treadwell's vigilance may well have saved other bears from the same fate." Was Treadwell a friend of the bears or their worst enemy? Was he a man that only wanted to share his observations that grizzlies are not the ferocious beasts we have always thought them to be, or a sick egotist, obsessed with his own demons? It is hard to tell from this film. Perhaps the answer is a little bit of both. Though I am grateful to Herzog for exposing Treadwell's work to a wider public, I am unclear as to whether Grizzly Man celebrates his life or exploits it. "For now", in the words of friend Louisa Wilcox, "it is enough to honor the dead and celebrate a rare life, and the places and creatures he brought into ours."

GRADE: ?

Chris Knipp
01-22-2006, 05:36 PM
I see that Grizzly Man came in fourth in the best film category of the Village Voice Take 7 critics poll (http://www.villagevoice.com/take/seven.php?page=winners&category=1) for 2005.

Chris Knipp
01-22-2006, 06:04 PM
It is unclear how much of his determination to live among the bears resulted from his love of nature or from his need to escape his problems at home. Your slightly garbled sentence makes it unclear whether or not you are presenting an either/or, but clearly living among the bears fulfiled both needs for Treadwell -- to experience his love of nature and to -- I would not say "escape," but to find a situation where his personal problems would not trouble him. Your summary is a bit confusing since you say Treadwell developed a "brash confidence" around the bears, and then you cite Rogers' views at length to suggest that Treadwell "cautious, even fearful, around bears he didn’t know, but he developed relationships and mutual trust with a few individual bears over the years."


Though the film raises complex questions that do not lend themselves to easy answers, it has nonetheless been seized upon by the corporate media to denounce environmentalists and those who dare to live on the edge of society. This may have some truth in it but nonetheless is misleading, since, as the film itself makes clear, the denunciations of environmentalists were going on and took in Treadwell well before Herzog's "complex" treatment came along. Herzog cann't be held responsible for any such crude exploitation of the issues; you acknowledge in this very sentence that Herzog's treatment is "complex," not simplistic.


Treadwell has been called a nut, a certified madman, foolish, obsessive, an egomaniac, bipolar, paranoid and schizophrenic. While his on-camera behavior is often bizarre and at times repugnant, we don't know how much this represents who Treadwell really was or even whether Mr. Herzog selected particular footage to produce a desired effect.
Your logic is unclear, your desire to give Treadwell the benefit of the doubt exaggerated. The film provides a complete picture of Treadwell's accomplishments, even if it is ultimately disapproving of his outlook. (You choose to overlook the fact that he took chances he oughtn't have taken, and that he caused not only his own death but that of another person.) "Who Treadwell really was" surely includes the sometimes (but not exclusively) bizarre moments Herzog shows us. If a person freaks out, behaves bizarrely, it doesn't have to have happened every day to be an important characteristic to consider in evaluating them.


Bizarre or not, the fact remains that Timothy did what he said. He lived in open and honest communication with wild animals for thirteen long years,You buy into Treadwell's anthromorphism here when you speak of "open and honest communication." What that means, I don't know.


Grizzly Man, under Herzog's direction, veers toward the sensational. In one sequence Treadwell demonstrates the emotional maturity of an eleven-year old in an expletive-laden rant against the Park Service, but the sequence has no timeframe and no context. I repeat: the occurance itself is significant, not how often -- or when -- it happened, though the film in general does provide careful timelines for events. Treadwell's history and the evidence in the footage show that he was unstable -- although nature and the grizzly world provided a wonderful haven for him where he could be high functioning, on his own terms, and do good.


In another scene that can only be described as maudlin, the director listens to the audio tape of the bear attack (pretending to hear it for the first time) Herzog has said in interviews and it is pretty well known I guess that he doesn't pretend to be neutral; that his documentaries are works of artifice.


Many critics have called Treadwell delusional for thinking he was protecting the bears. Yet perhaps the most telling fact is that during his time in Katmai, no bear was known to have been killed by poachers. In the first year after his death, five bears were poached. I doubt that this is good evidence of Treadwell's importance. Bears were pretty safe -- that's why people have pointed out that his "protection" of them was unnecessary -- and delusional.

Howard Schumann
01-22-2006, 10:09 PM
Your slightly garbled sentence makes it unclear whether or not you are presenting an either/or, but clearly living among the bears fulfiled both needs for Treadwell -- to experience his love of nature and to -- I would not say "escape," but to find a situation where his personal problems would not trouble him. Sounds like a pretty straightforward sentence to me, but you seem to have a need to criticize my grammar. I could start attacking your spelling but what purpose would it serve? You might express it a different way but my meaning is clear. I wasn't sure what the biggest factor was in leading him to the wild.
Your summary is a bit confusing since you say Treadwell developed a "brash confidence" around the bears, and then you cite Rogers' views at length to suggest that Treadwell "cautious, even fearful, around bears he didn’t know, but he developed relationships and mutual trust with a few individual bears over the years." The key word here is developed. He may have been cautious but as he developed relationships, he became more confident. Now how confusing is that?
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Though the film raises complex questions that do not lend themselves to easy answers, it has nonetheless been seized upon by the corporate media to denounce environmentalists and those who dare to live on the edge of society.
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This may have some truth in it but nonetheless is misleading, since, as the film itself makes clear, the denunciations of environmentalists were going on and took in Treadwell well before Herzog's "complex" treatment came along. Herzog can't be held responsible for any such crude exploitation of the issues; you acknowledge in this very sentence that Herzog's treatment is "complex," not simplistic. I say the film raises complex questions not because Herzog treats the subject matter with complexity but because it is so ambiguous. Herzog is responsible in a way because of the negative slant he gives the project and shows Treadwell in large part to his disadvantage.
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Treadwell has been called a nut, a certified madman, foolish, obsessive, an egomaniac, bipolar, paranoid and schizophrenic. While his on-camera behavior is often bizarre and at times repugnant, we don't know how much this represents who Treadwell really was or even whether Mr. Herzog selected particular footage to produce a desired effect.
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Your logic is unclear, your desire to give Treadwell the benefit of the doubt is exaggerated. The film provides a complete picture of Treadwell's accomplishments, even if it is ultimately disapproving of his outlook. "Who Treadwell really was" surely includes the sometimes (but not exclusively) bizarre moments Herzog shows us. If a person freaks out, behaves bizarrely, it doesn't have to have happened every day to be an important characteristic to consider in evaluating them. My only question is - was this incident taken out of context and made to seem more important than it actually was. In other words, we are privy to over one hour of 100 hours of footage. I would really like to know what was on the other 99 hours.
You choose to overlook the fact that he took chances he oughtn't have taken, and that he caused not only his own death but that of another person. How he died does not invalidate his activity over a period of 13 years. We hear so much BS about he was so self serving and how the bears got acclimated to humans yet you cannot come up with a single incident during that period that showed the effects of any of this. He was killed because of several mistakes, in not camping in open ground, in remaining too late in the season but keep in mind that the bear that killed him was not from the area and was not one he had any relationship with. He was not prudent in that regard and the one mistake cost him his life but it does not invalidate his work in educating the public about grizzlies or the organization he formed to protect the environment.
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Bizarre or not, the fact remains that Timothy did what he said. He lived in open and honest communication with wild animals for thirteen long years,
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You buy into Treadwell's anthromorphism here when you speak of "open and honest communication." What that means, I don't know. Well you discovered a big word here. Good for you. What it means is exactly what it says. Communication doesn't mean speaking words. It means a relationship that allowed man and beast to live side by side in peace and harmony for 13 years.
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Grizzly Man, under Herzog's direction, veers toward the sensational. In one sequence Treadwell demonstrates the emotional maturity of an eleven-year old in an expletive-laden rant against the Park Service, but the sequence has no timeframe and no context.
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I repeat: the occurrence itself is significant, not how often -- or when -- it happened, though the film in general does provide careful timelines for events. Treadwell's history and the evidence in the footage show that he was unstable -- although nature and the grizzly world provided a wonderful haven for him where he could be high functioning, on his own terms, and do good. Who he was certainly includes his rants and I didn't deny that he was unstable, yet what I don't know is if this happened early on or what the situation was that caused this immature outburst. In an interview with a park ranger, he said that he had some differences with Treadwell at the beginning but it was patched up and they had a good relationship.
Herzog has said in interviews and it is pretty well known I guess that he doesn't pretend to be neutral; that his documentaries are works of artifice. Yes but he does pretend to be honest which he is not.
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Many critics have called Treadwell delusional for thinking he was protecting the bears. Yet perhaps the most telling fact is that during his time in Katmai, no bear was known to have been killed by poachers. In the first year after his death, five bears were poached.
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I doubt that this is good evidence of Treadwell's importance. Bears were pretty safe -- that's why people have pointed out that his "protection" of them was unnecessary -- and delusional. You doubt it is good evidence. Well isn't that nice? What would you consider good evidence? During the time he was with the bears, no bear was killed by poachers. In the year after he leaves, five bears are killed. If that isn't good evidence I'm not sure what is,

Chris Knipp
01-23-2006, 11:44 AM
I'm not criticizing your grammar but your sentence structure. You wrote:
It is unclear how much of his determination to live among the bears resulted from his love of nature or from his need to escape his problems at home. Obviously "how much of" should have been "whether" (necessitated by the use of "or"). But the main problem was that this is not a necessary either/or. You would have made a better case if your writing throughout had been clearer. It is distressing that you, who write so many reviews, think this a perfectly acceptable sentence.


My only question is - was this incident taken out of context and made to seem more important than it actually was. My point is, and I repeat, that the incident -- actually not a single one but a whole long string of them, and lengthy diatribes -- is important, period. The fact that Treadwell didn't act crazy every minute doesn't make his bizarre behavior unimportant. Herzog couldn't show us hours of unrevealing tape just to create some kind of "balance." The point is that Treadwell had periods of bizarre behavior, and most of us don't. You don't like this picture of Treadwell because you want to think of him as some kind of saintly communicator with "wild animals."

You obviously don't have much use for Herzog, at least not for his work on Grizzly Man. Clearly you have a fundamental disagreement with Herzog's outlook on nature, an outlook which I happen to find valid and important, particularly in this context. I have discussed this issue in detail elsewhere on this thread. The key statement in your review is:
"Bizarre or not, the fact remains that Timothy did what he said. He lived in open and honest communication with wild animals for thirteen long years... (Another clumsy sentence, by the way, "Bizarre or not..." -- and what does that mean? Besides which,"thirteen long summers would have been more accurate.) I repeat: the whole concept of the film, which you do not refute but simply reject, is that "open and honest communication with wild animals" is a virtually meaningless statement, based on a delusion, whose implications, if acted upon, are potentially lethal. And in fact Treadwell perfectly well knew and often repeated that his "open and honest communication" [sic] with the grizzlies would probably get him killed one day -- as it did. What he did not anticipate is that he would take another innocent person with him.

Howard Schumann
01-23-2006, 12:24 PM
I'm not criticizing your grammar but your sentence structure. Do me a favor and don't criticize my sentence structure. Are you doing that to make yourself look good? I find it rather arrogant and condescending. I could find a lot to criticize in your reviews as well but this is all rather childish, I think..
Herzog couldn't show us hours of unrevealing tape just to create some kind of "balance." How do you know that 99% of the tape is unrevealing? Have you seen it?
The point is that Treadwell had periods of bizarre behavior, and most of us don't. You don't like this picture of Treadwell because you want to think of him as some kind of saintly communicator with "wild animals." I have acknowledged his bizarre behavior and also the conflicts I felt. Do you actually read what I write?
I repeat: the whole concept of the film, which you do not refute but simply reject, is that "open and honest communication with wild animals" is a virtually meaningless statement, based on a delusion, whose implications, if acted upon, are potentially lethal. And in fact Treadwell perfectly well knew and often repeated that his "open and honest communication" [sic] with the grizzlies would probably get him killed one day -- as it did. What he did not anticipate is that he would take another innocent person with him. I think I discussed this both in my review and in my response to your post. Having a discussion with you often becomes tiresome rather quickly because you simply ignore 90% of what is actually said or distort it to fit your judgments and things have to be repeated over and over again. Besides your tone is really nasty and I do not appreciate it one iota. But we've been here before, haven't we? I thought we had gotten past this sort of stuff.

Chris Knipp
01-23-2006, 12:55 PM
There is no need to take offence. I try to keep the dialogue open. I am presenting my point of view, not yours. If you think that is repetitious and boring, that's perhaps because you're not interested in my point of view. I am contrasting my point of view with yours. As for your sentence structure, I am not being "nasty," just a stickler for good writing! I'm sure you consider that important. If you find fault with my writing, in my reviews, you're certainly welcome to point out the errors. We have to keep ourselves on our toes. I am not here to stroke or coddle anybody and neither, from the sound of this, are you. What I do try to avoid but you apparently don't, is getting personal, testy, and ad hominem.

I misstated the case when I said I was "criticizing" your "sentence structure" because that allowed you to take the line out of context. I am only pointing out an error in sentence structure in one of your sentences. That doesn't mean I am "criticizing your sentence structure" in general. There is no need to take the comment that one of your sentences is unclear as a criticism of all your writing.
I have acknowledged his bizarre behavior and also the conflicts I felt. Do you actually read what I write? Yes, I do read what you write, quite carefully, actually, and your emphatic point was that Treadwell's bizarre behavior was taken out of context and overemphasized by Herzog.


How do you know that 99% of the tape is unrevealing? Have you seen it? I don't, but this is an odd question for you to ask, since that "99% of the tape is unrevealing" would be what you would want to believe, not me.

Though you express annooyance at my repetition, I still do not think that you have replied to my statement:
that "open and honest communication with wild animals" is a virtually meaningless statement, based on a delusion, whose implications, if acted upon, are potentially lethal.

Howard Schumann
01-23-2006, 02:19 PM
I don't, but this is an odd question for you to ask, since that "99% of the tape is unrevealing" would be what you would want to believe, not me. The bottom line is that we simply do not know what's on the rest of the tape and while I have no evidence I don't believe that Herzog is above manipulating his material to produce an effect consistent with his worldview. Let me repeat again: "Who he was certainly includes his rants and I didn't deny that he was unstable, yet what I don't know is if this happened early on or what the situation was that caused this immature outburst. In an interview with a park ranger, he said that he had some differences with Treadwell at the beginning but it was patched up and they had a good relationship. " I am simply raising a question here as to whether the rant reflects a moment in time or his true personality. I just don't know. Do you?
Though you express annoyance at my repetition, I still do not think that you have replied to my statement:
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that "open and honest communication with wild animals" is a virtually meaningless statement, based on a delusion, whose implications, if acted upon, are potentially lethal.
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I don't know what to say except to repeat myself. Where was the delusion? Did he not live in peace and harmony with the bears for 13 summers? Were any bears killed by poachers during that time? Did any harm come to the bears he lived with for 13 summers? The implications of my thoughts right now are potentially lethal. That does not make me a killer.

Chris Knipp
01-23-2006, 03:44 PM
I see what you mean, but given what we know of Treadwell's history, his drug and alcohol problems, which were very serious, and his acknowledged difficulty at funcitoning in society, it's likely that he was not a happy or a stable individual -- even out in the wild.

The delusion was that simply because he survived for 12 summers, while clearly pushing the limits, in fact getting much closer to the grizzlies than park ranger requirements day after day, that he was living in peace and harmony with these animals. Your statement that he was in "open and honest communication," I don't know the meaning of. Herzog's view, which I think is justifiable, is that the communication, as well as the sympathy, between himself and the bears was Treadwell's imagination -- not anything really happening.

Howard Schumann
01-23-2006, 05:29 PM
Originally posted by Chris Knipp
I see what you mean, but given what we know of Treadwell's history, his drug and alcohol problems, which were very serious, and his acknowledged difficulty at funcitoning in society, it's likely that he was not a happy or a stable individual -- even out in the wild. That is one side of him for sure but it is largely irrelevant. The other side is not well represented. For those who knew him the best, his work was magical, inspirational, and enlightening. Why is that side of him so difficult for you to acknowledge?
The delusion was that simply because he survived for 12 summers, while clearly pushing the limits, in fact getting much closer to the grizzlies than park ranger requirements day after day, that he was living in peace and harmony with these animals. Your statement that he was in "open and honest communication," I don't know the meaning of. Herzog's view, which I think is justifiable, is that the communication, as well as the sympathy, between himself and the bears was Treadwell's imagination -- not anything really happening. That is simply your delusion or perhaps yours and Herzog's, not Treadwell's. He was an adventurer who lived life to the fullest, an educator, a preservationist, and a friend to all species. You would rather write off everything that occurred during the 13 summers than have to acknowledge anything positive. Frankly, I would much rather defer to those who knew him the best and do not have such a myopic worldview.

Chris Knipp
01-23-2006, 06:27 PM
Well, it's your assumption that those who knew him best had nothing but good things to say about him. That isn't the evidence of the film; the picture is more muddled than that. And it remains muddled to me after I've done some additional research into the subject of Treadwell on my own. I can accept that he was inspirational, but apart from that, and this is Herzog's special concern, there was something dysfunctional about his relationship to the animals, a sense that he was seeking therapy in his feel-good anthropomorphism, and that this wasn't right. Can you see that, at all? This is a complex subject -- I think we both acknowledge that, but it's a great film and I'm not alone in thinking so. Part and parcel of this greatness is the fact that Herzog takes a very definite stand, perhaps more willing to fullyacknowledge the oddness and deranagement -- loveable derangement, at times -- of Treadwell, than you are -- in strong opposition to Treadwell's anthropomorphic view of dangerous beasts in the wild. Herzog is drawn to such people, to the mad, the disfunctional and has long been a sensitive, sympathetic student of them.

Howard Schumann
01-23-2006, 06:56 PM
Originally posted by Chris Knipp
Well, it's your assumption that those who knew him best had nothing but good things to say about him. That isn't the evidence of the film; the picture is more muddled than that. And it remains muddled to me after I've done some additional research into the subject of Treadwell on my own. I can accept that he was inspirational, but apart from that, and this is Herzog's special concern, there was something dysfunctional about his relationship to the animals, a sense that he was seeking therapy in his feel-good anthropomorphism, and that this wasn't right. Can you see that, at all? This is a complex subject -- I think we both acknowledge that, but it's a great film and I'm not alone in thinking so. Part and parcel of this greatness is the fact that Herzog takes a very definite stand, perhaps more willing to fullyacknowledge the oddness and deranagement -- loveable derangement, at times -- of Treadwell, than you are -- in strong opposition to Treadwell's anthropomorphic view of dangerous beasts in the wild. Herzog is drawn to such people, to the mad, the disfunctional and has long been a sensitive, sympathetic student of them. Well as I say I am very conflicted about the film. Maybe Herzog is more admiring than I'm giving him credit for. On the other hand, the interviews he includes in the film tend to promote the same point of view - that it's not possible to cross the line between man and nature and live among wild bears. But Herzog and his experts overlook the most important fact: Treadwell did exactly that, and for a long period of time. Instead of focusing on the one day when he was attacked by a bear, there is little weight given to the hundreds and hundreds of days when he wasn't.

Chris Knipp
01-23-2006, 10:21 PM
I respect your uncertainty and it's shared by Herzog, except for the one point. I think it's very clear from Herzog's previous history that he's very attracted to and sympathetic toward quixotic, deranged, marginal people, as shown by his working with Klaus Kinski so often and with Bruno S. as Kaspar Hauser; and that Herzog perceives a kind of extraordinary quality, a saintliness, in Treadwell. However he does indeed part company with Treadwell as shown in Grizzly Man on the latter's view of nature and particularly wild, dangerous animals as essentially benign and our friends. You like Treadwell are taking a leap of faith when you say he crossed the line and lived among the bears. He came close to the line, but what indication is there that he actually crossed it? Have you interviewed any of the bears? He didn't live "among" them; he lived alongside them. This is an important distinction. Aren't you making a leap of faith here? The best that we can possibly say is that we don't know. But Herzog sees an alien otherness, a blankness in the faces of the bears. He was convinced that the friendliness and kinship that Treadwell saw were purely his imagination.

Howard Schumann
01-24-2006, 12:53 AM
Originally posted by Chris Knipp
I respect your uncertainty and it's shared by Herzog, except for the one point. I think it's very clear from Herzog's previous history that he's very attracted to and sympathetic toward quixotic, deranged, marginal people, as shown by his working with Klaus Kinski so often and with Bruno S. as Kaspar Hauser; and that Herzog perceives a kind of extraordinary quality, a saintliness, in Treadwell. However he does indeed part company with Treadwell as shown in Grizzly Man on the latter's view of nature and particularly wild, dangerous animals as essentially benign and our friends. You like Treadwell are taking a leap of faith when you say he crossed the line and lived among the bears. He came close to the line, but what indication is there that he actually crossed it? Have you interviewed any of the bears? He didn't live "among" them; he lived alongside them. This is an important distinction. Aren't you making a leap of faith here? The best that we can possibly say is that we don't know. But Herzog sees an alien otherness, a blankness in the faces of the bears. He was convinced that the friendliness and kinship that Treadwell saw were purely his imagination. I understand what Herzog thinks. The question is what do you think? Do you just buy everything he has to say lock, stock, and barrel? Herzog is against the sentimentalizing of animals. He also has a nihilistic view of nature and the universe and a low view of environmentalists as indicated by an interview in the LA Times where he calls them "tree huggers". So I understand where he is coming from. Telling me what Herzog was or wasn't convinced about is not an argument that carries much weight. I'm more interested in a balnaced presentation of a man's life. In Herzog's view, the man's death defined his life. In my view, his life gave meaning to his death.

Chris Knipp
01-24-2006, 12:41 PM
Of course I don't buy everything Herzog says or thinks! He and I are very different types of people I'm sure, and I find the places he goes strange, but I respect him and I think this is a great documentary.* You will find my views about nature buried back earlier in this thread I think, where I contrast this film with The March of the Penguins. I guess I would have to say I'm midway between Herzog and Treadwell, but in all cases involved in the movie, closer to Herzog. I also tend to be against the sentimentalizing of animals. But I wouldn't use the term "tree-huggers," unless in jest; perhaps Herzog was using it in a friendly way. I am a strong supporter of environmental preservation organizations. And I have a lot of trees on my own land, relative to anybody else around. You can call me a "tree hugger" too if you like. I love trees and can't understand people who just want to chop them down. You make a strong argument, and there is good reason to think that if we two got together and forged a joint review of the movie together both having equal input, it would be a good and balanced review.


*I'm fine with the generally positive resonse to Grizzly Man. It's #5 on the Film Comment poll of best films and it's #4 on the Voice's Take 7 and their Best Documentary.

Howard Schumann
01-24-2006, 12:59 PM
Originally posted by Chris Knipp
Of course I don't buy everything Herzog says or thinks! He and I are very different types of people I'm sure, and I find the places he goes strange, but I respect him and I think this is a great documentary.* You will find my views about nature buried back earlier in this thread I think, where I contrast this film with The March of the Penguins. I guess I would have to say I'm midway between Herzog and Treadwell, but in all cases involved in the movie, closer to Herzog. I also tend to be against the sentimentalizing of animals. But I wouldn't use the term "tree-huggers," unless in jest; perhaps Herzog was using it in a friendly way. I am a strong supporter of environmental preservation organizations. And I have a lot of trees on my own land, relative to anybody else around. You can call me a "tree hugger" too if you like. I love trees and can't understand people who just want to chop them down. You make a strong argument, and there is good reason to think that if we two got together and forged a joint review of the movie together both having equal input, it would be a good and balanced review. Thanks. Here's the link

http://www.latimes.com/travel/outdoors/la-os-treadwell2aug02,0,3536948.story?coll=la-home-outdoors

And here is the relevant quote:

"Q: There's this term, biophilia, that describes some innate affinity for humans to gravitate to nature. Do you buy that here?

A: No. It's a very good term, and I would apply it rather to the tree huggers, which is one of the biggest embarrassments in our civilization. It's so deeply embarrassing that if I see a tree hugger, I just pray for the ground to open and a chasm to swallow me. That is how our relationship with nature has gone completely awry. There's something definitely wrong about that."

Chris Knipp
01-24-2006, 02:23 PM
Yeah, I don't buy into that at all. The "tree huggers" in some instances may be somewhat foolish, but I am on their side and I don't know why Herzog takes this position. I do agree with him in being opposed to the sentimentalizing and anthromorphizing of animals. And I think I have fully stated my position and explained why I hold to it, earlier in this thread immediately following the posting of my initial review of the film.

Howard Schumann
01-24-2006, 02:39 PM
Originally posted by Chris Knipp
Yeah, I don't buy into that at all. The "tree huggers" in some instances may be somewhat foolish, but I am on their side and I don't know why Herzog takes this position. I do agree with him in being opposed to the sentimentalizing and anthromorphizing of animals. And I think I have fully stated my position and explained why I hold to it, earlier in this thread immediately following the posting of my initial review of the film.
I don't like all the "disneyfication" of animals either but on the other hand, I am not bothered by "anthropomorphizing" whatever that is because I feel that on a fundamental level all sentient beings are one.

Chris Knipp
01-24-2006, 04:56 PM
I respect this point of view, but it's all a matter of how you interpret it, what implications it has for you in action.