Yes, Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man stands the test of time. It’s arguably one of the auteur’s most outstanding achievements. As such, it might seem odd that Erik Nelson and Jewel Palovak, the producers of the 2005 documentary, would retread that ground for the three-episode mini-series Diary Of The Grizzly Man. Whereas Herzog dives into the life of the Grizzly Man, aka Timothy Treadwell, via interviews, examination of the footage he shot, and a look at how humans and nature co-exist, this is intended as the film Treadwell was making.
For 13 years, Timothy Treadwell would trek to Alaska’s Hallo Bay, specifically the “Big Green” plain of the “bear sanctuary.” Growing up, he felt a kinship with animals and used his seasonal excursions to observe and record the bears. Eventually, he would even befriend some of them. He would document as much of his and the bears’ daily routine as possible during this time. Treadwell’s ultimate goal was to create the world’s most intimate and wide-ranging documentary about bears. Unfortunately, in October of 2003 Treadwell, and his girlfriend, were killed when a bear killed them, presumably for food.
“Treadwell’s ultimate goal was to create the world’s most intimate and wide-ranging documentary about bears.”
Diary Of The Grizzly Man, which credits Timothy Treadwell as the director of all three episodes, presents the man’s footage with minimal changes. Of course, there is no way of knowing how Treadwell himself would want this to be edited, but Nelson and Palovak of staying true to his stated intentions. See, the footage plays out undisturbed, with text occasionally interjected to give context to a time change or more information about a development being discussed.
Treadwell’s love of bears and nature is evident from frame one, so it is no surprise how at home he felt in a place like Katmai Coast. Due to his constant presence and calm demeanor, he was able to get extraordinarily up close and personal with the animals. This is the greatest asset to the series, as it is a marvel to witness how they interact with him and vice versa. It also helps shore up respect for these gargantuan creatures, as the filmmaker majestically captures them and shows the animals to be more playful than initially expected.
There are two more episodes of Diary Of The Grizzly Man to look at, as only the first was made available for review. However, if they’re just as hypnotic and engaging as this premiere installment, then the whole series is going to be well worth everyone’s time.
Side note: I haven’t seen The Grizzly Man Diaries and, therefore, have no basis of comparison between that show and this one.
"…hypnotic and engaging..."