Monday, September 21, 2009

Grizzly Man

For thirteen seasons, a Californian named Timothy Treadwell (real name: Timothy Dexter) traveled to the Katmai National Park & Preserve on the Alaska Peninsula to live among grizzly bears. Treadwell was something of an eco-warrior and claimed a special understanding of grizzlies. He got up close to them, talked to them, filmed them, named them, and felt called to be their special protector from poachers and tourists.

Over 100 hours of video footage shot by Treadwell was obtained by filmmaker Werner Herzog and used to create the documentary Grizzly Man in 2005. I watched it with my wife, son, and daughter-in-law last week. It's hilarious at times, disturbing at times, and tragic throughout.

Hilarious because it has the look and feel of one of those "mockumentaries" directed by Christopher Guest (e.g., A Mighty Wind, Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, etc.). We sat there watching the DVD and often said to each other amidst laughter, "This CAN'T be true!" There's one scene that's especially funny, where a guy talks calmly about all the people found inside one of the dead grizzlies.

But aside from the funny moments, of which there are many, it was sad and disturbing to watch the deterioration of Treadwell into a man completely deceived by his hollow worldview. He grew so in love with grizzly bears that he lost hold on reality. To him, grizzlies were the intelligent, virtuous creatures and human beings were the evil, ignorant, land-grabbing, environment-destroying, bear-killing capitalists. Treadwell perfectly illustrates Romans 1:25 - "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is forever praised. Amen."

If you rent Grizzly Man, be forewarned: A LOT of profanity comes out of Timothy Treadwell - this sweet, nature-loving environmentalist - especially at one point where he curses the park rangers and just about everything else that walks on two legs (but him). Sadly, Treadwell's video footage shows him to be the very opposite of what he claims to be.

About halfway into the film, after you figure out this guy Treadwell was for real, things get very interesting. Herzog interviews the people who knew Treadwell best. They are a mixture of critics and devotees. And then you find out what happened to Treadwell. In October, 2003, he and his female companion got attacked, killed, and eaten by one (maybe two) of the grizzlies. Of course that wasn't captured on video. But if you're in a sadistic mood, you can listen to what purports to be nearly two minutes of audio, supposedly captured by a camera Treadwell left running inside his backpack. (I seriously doubt it is genuine, however.)

For an interesting interpretation of Treadwell and what happened to him, go here.

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