Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Grizzly Man (a guest review by Number Three)

Once in a great while, a man degrades himself to metaphor. That rare person ceases to be merely human, and instead becomes an illustration to all humanity. In Grizzly Man, the metaphor of a man is Timothy Treadwell, the real-life and now really dead animal rights activist who spent more than a decade schmoozing with the grizzlies in Alaska. The illustration that he becomes is that of a man who lets the worship of his imagined god spiral him to the depths of utter foolishness.

Here’s the mechanics: Treadwell filmed hundreds of hours of footage while he was living with the bears, and along came the brilliant director Werner Herzog to fashion both a statement and an experience out of it all. It is gripping, moving, haunting, exciting, shocking, exhausting, and frightening. There’s even a bit of cheese and hyperbole, but make no mistake, it’s not a movie you can stop thinking about for weeks after viewing.

This movie is technically a documentary, and there are several occasions where Treadwell’s friends or the creepy coroner are interviewed, but these moments are quickly forgotten when footage of Treadwell’s exploits roll. Treadwell speaks to the camera directly, and thus speaks to us. His intent and use of the footage was to popularize his cause and educate tykes about the “impending danger” that faced the Alaskan bears. This makes for an interesting blend of a movie, because while we are listening to the man and considering his message, we are concurrently watching him descend into madness. And this is exactly what makes the movie so dramatically enticing to watch.

From the shot of adrenaline that will course through your body when you witness the raw power of those towering grizzlies to the utter amazement and glee you will feel when the foxes arrive, you will most certainly be moved. There are some scenes in this movie which must be experienced. Words fail to describe the awe and wonder of what Treadwell beheld. The strange, emotional tension of it all is that we can’t help but feel that Treadwell is not meant to behold it, and we are not meant to watch him behold it.

I struggle as a reviewer in knowing just how much to reveal about this man. But if the question is, “how far will a man let his god take him?” then the answer is “unto death.” It is then that we must consider if our god is worth dying for. And my own reaction as I watched Treadwell was, “No you fool! That is not worth dying for.” You’ll say the same.

Number Three’s Score:

Mouthspeak (impact of dialog): 12

Watchfeel (impact of visuals): 20

Mouthfeel (overall watchability): 16

Number Three

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