160mc – Grizzly Man

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“How does your perception of Timothy Treadwell evolve during the film, and how is that opinion shaped by Herzog’s narration?”

Grizzly Man is a documentary created by Werner Herzog about the life of Timothy Treadwell. Timothy was a man that dedicated his life to nature, especially bears. His keen interest and passion for these animals are shown clearly throughout the film as it shows Timothy spending his summers living with them and also filming his time there to help educate the world on bears and their nature.

Timothy is introduced at the beginning of the documentary and seems to be a normal bear/wildlife expert. Through the course of the film, we learn about his past and how it leads him to be so interested in bears. When he was young he became an alcoholic, experimented with drugs and things spiralled downhill. Due to this, he lost a scholarship which resulted in him going into the wild and seeing the bears as a sign for him to quit and recover from his state. Timothy said, “They (the bears) needed a caretaker, they needed someone to look after them, but not a drunk person, not a person messed up; so I promised the bears that if I’d look over them, would they please help me, be a better person.” This was the start of his journey being one with the bears.

My initial thought of Timothy was that he was a brave and caring man as he had so much love for the bears. He was brave as he spent 13 summers living with the bears, which are dangerous animals but he didn’t care, he loved and cherished them. Timothy would then share his knowledge, experiences and his footage with the world and teach them about bears as this was another passion of his. Herzog said that Timothy “uses his camera as a tool to get across his message”. As the film progressed I started to think that he was a bit crazy and insane. This was due to him talking to the animals as if they were domesticated, that they’ll understand and respond to him. Herzog mentioned that Timothy only spoke like this to the animals was so that he could connect with them and communicate with them on a deeper level. Herzog’s narration enhances my perception of him being crazy as he talks about Timothy’s diary and how he talks about humans being foreign to him, how he fits in more and feels at home with the animals. He also mentions how Timothy was segregated from humans as there were miles of icy glaciers acting as a barrier between Tim and the rest of the human community. Herzog describes these glaciers as a metaphor of Timothy’s soul.

Another reason why I perceived Timothy to be strange is how he tried to control nature or felt like he was the “boss”. Sven Haakanson said, “I think he did more damage to the bears because when you habituate the bears to humans, they think all humans are safe.” Timothy did not realise this and in one scene we see him getting angry with nature and god as he witnessed a bear eating her cubs. This was for survival but Timothy felt like it was his duty to take control which he couldn’t so he got angry but as Haakanson said it’s just natures course.

Even though I think Timothy is crazy, I was convinced that what he did was for the good of the animals as he helped create awareness and care for them as it was his passion. Overall, my perceptions of Timothy stayed the same throughout the film but Herzog’s narration made me understand why Timothy did what he did and that he only had good intentions. Herzog also put forward his views which enhanced the fact that Timothy’s intentions were pure.


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