Timothy Treadwell became passionate about protecting bears, and adjusting the perception of the public regarding the creatures. He thought of himself as the one that was going to protect the animals, who roamed around a national park in Alaska, where Treadwell also lived for 13 Summers, spending some of that time filming the creatures up close.
Directed by Werner Herzog, the film combines Treadwell's footage with new interviews and narration. In the clips, we see Treadwell admitting that he must be aware of the power of the bears, and that at any time, they could get aggressive towards him. There are some astonishing moments early on where a bear Treadwell tells us is aggressive makes a move towards him. Instead of freaking out, Treadwell not only stands his ground, but scolds the bear as if it was a child who'd just had a brief temper tantrum.
On one hand, one can clearly appreciate the fact that Treadwell wanted to protect these creatures and educate the public about them. However, Treadwell clearly had taken his cause up the mountain and over the other side, as despite his discussion of the force the bears are capable of, he clearly never takes his own warnings to heart. As some of the interviewers note in the film, Treadwell appeared to want to become a bear. Some respect his cause, yet others think that he was clearly putting himself in danger.
Still, one has to admit that some of Treadwell's footage (oddly enough, he would sometimes do as many as 15 takes of some of the "scenes" he was attempting to shoot) is both breathtaking and beautiful. A stunning fox appears to become something of a friend to Treadwell, and often visits his camp, sometimes with its young, one of whom appears to run off with his hat at one point. In another scene, Treadwell sits with a fox, petting it like a puppy and talking about saving the creatures and how the two became quick friends after the animal went to the bathroom on his clothes. Another scene has Treadwell discussing with a fox sleeping nearby how he came to be involved in the wilds after recovering from alcoholism. Treadwell also captures bear fights and bears roaming about the countryside at surprisingly close distances. Occasionally, they become momentarily curious and come for an even closer look.
Amie Huguenard, Treadwell's girlfriend at the time, was brought up to live with him in the wilds during one particular Summer. As the narration by Herzog notes, despite hundreds of hours of footage, there are oddly only two times when Huguenard's presence was noted - once when she was barely visible, the other when she was holding the camera. Sadly, her thoughts on the experience remain a mystery, as the two were killed by a bear who was apparently a unamiliar to the area. The pilot who found them and others, including a woman Treadwell once loved, talk about the aftermath. The woman even lets Herzog listen to the audio tape of the bear attack, as the camera was running, but the cap was on. He advises the woman to never listen to it, and to destroy the tape.
His devastated parents paint a pretty ordinary picture of Treadwell, who got along well with others and, despite never getting great grades, was able to get a scholarship. Always fond of animals, his favorite childhood toy was a teddy bear (which we also see in a scene in Treadwell's tent during a storm.) When he moved away from home, he started with the wrong crowd, but tried to turn things around and make an attempt at acting that was ultimately unsuccessful (we're told that he was a runner-up for Woody Harrelson's role on "Cheers".)
Overall, "Grizzly Man" is a fascinating, haunting and sometimes saddening documentary that attempts to put together all of the pieces of the puzzle that is its subject. The fact that one clearly feels as if there's still elements left unexplored or unsaid makes this film even more interesting.
Oddly, the DVD edition starts with a note that the film has been altered from the original theatrical release. The film is still presented in widescreen, but what apparently altered is a scene with Treadwell on David Letterman that was taken out for reasons unknown. No note of this is made on the packaging, only once the movie is started.
Note: The film is rated "R" and is not appropriate for younger viewers.
VIDEO: "Grizzly Man" is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen by Lion's Gate Home Video. The presentation is a mixture of Treadwell's video footage and newly shot footage, and both look quite good here, considering the quality. The DVD presentation does boast reasonable sharpness and detail, considering Treadwell's footage appears to have been done with a fairly low-budget camera.
The presentation does show a few instances of very slight artifacts and minor shimmering, but otherwise looked clean and clear. Colors looked natural and quite striking.
SOUND: "Grizzly Man" is presented in Dolby 2.0, and sounds perfectly fine, with clear dialogue, music and ambient sounds.
EXTRAS: A 50-minute documentary on the music of the film.
Final Thoughts: "Grizzly Man" is a haunting and engaging portrayal of a man who was lost within his quest, and who clearly thought he had found a new home with these creatures. Yet, there's still elements of Treadwell that remain a mystery. Despite the unfortunate alteration of the film on this DVD, the film is still definitely worth seeing and at least worth a rental look.