Analysis: Grizzly Man

Grizzly Man (2005) is a documentary film directed by Werner Herzog. The film portrays Timothy Treadwell’s life and death among grizzly bears in Alaska.


The film is composed of both footage Treadwell shot living with the bears, and interviews Herzog did with close friends and family after Treadwell’s death. Treadwell’s footage shows him interacting with and talking to various animals, often referring to them as his friends. Amie Huguenard, Treadwell’s girlfriend who accompanied him on his last trip, was rarely filmed by Treadwell and not frequently mentioned in the film by Herzog – aside from acknowledging her death alongside Treadwell’s. This may speak of Timothy’s difficulty in relating to fellow human beings.

Both Herzog and Treadwell’s footage creates a sense of unease binding the film together. Treadwell’s idealism in contrast to Herzog’s cynicism adds to the anxiety of the film. As is Herzog’s style, he narrates and appears in the film both as interviewer and commentator. Filming the interviews with the interviewee in the middle of the frame and looking directly at the camera echoes the unnaturalness of Timothy living and closely interacting with grizzly bears.

The film is far more than a mere factual account of the life and tragic death of Treadwell. Herzog either intentionally or accidentally portrays Timothy Treadwell as a deeply disturbed man, who cared much for grizzly bears; but might have displaced his compassion. Treadwell desperately wanted to help and protect the bears, who didn’t need his help and instead became his solace from the world that he thought had rejected him.

Grizzly Man is not only about a man in the wilderness, it is an examination of Timothy Treadwell’s struggle to fit into human society. It is explicitly about a man in the wild, becoming one with the wilderness and its inhabitants in order to camouflage; but also implicitly about the wilderness in man that consumed Timothy and would not let him camouflage in society.

Herzog, Werner (dir). 2005. Grizzly Man. [Film]. Lions Gate Films.


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