Grizzly Man

After having gorged on nonfiction films that tell us what to think, Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man is an improbable palate cleanser–allowing us to not know what to think, and encouraging us to just admit it. Not that Herzog minces words. “I believe the common denominator in the universe is not harmony but chaos, hostility and murder,” he says in his exalted, turbidly accented narration. We know this about Timothy Treadwell: He lived with bears in Alaska for 13 summers and died by being eaten by one. The movie, built mostly from Treadwell’s sometimes extraordinary and always self-dramatizing video footage of himself and the animals, expects our morbid curiosity; it is a check on a culture that elevates the Crocodile Hunter to pop hero and probably an indulgence of that culture’s darkest fantasy. Its power is in the way Herzog authenticates and complicates the suggestion that Treadwell “got what he deserved.”

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