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Grizzly Man

June 16, 2009

This is a film sure to draw a reaction from the audience. Its intent is to provoke, though one is not always sure what it is trying to say. This was my first encounter with Werner Herzog’s unique “oeuvre”, and I’m not entirely sure where to begin with commentary. On some levels, it has more in common with Spinal Tap than the so-called documentary genre to which it allegedly belongs. Herzog is a master at orchestrating absurdity and awkwardness. The scene in which one of the girlfriends of Treadwell (the doomed subject of the film) receives his still-running watch retrieved from his severed hand stands out as a shining example. The anti-poignancy and sheer woodenness of the moment is both riveting and hilarious.

But I believe there is much more depth to the movie that keeps it from descending to the level of a simple character assassination/exploitation, though clearly Herzog molds the story to match his intent. Treadwell’s story to me is more than a commentary on a sad freak at the fringes of society (though it is that, too), it is a peek at the futility of the human endeavor, a glimpse at the madness of human dreams, and a critique of our celebrity- and media-obsessed culture. I kept thinking, were Treadwell’s motives really so different from the exhibitionists who go on reality tv shows – or write blogs, for that matter?

A really fascinating portrait that will stay on your mind for some time after viewing.

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