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103 min.
Werner Herzog
Biography, Documentary
Rating *
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7.8% (1:13)
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  1. greenhorg's avatar


    Not to give away the ending but spoiler 7 years 6 months ago
  2. Timec's avatar


    Eddyspeeder - I think if you listen to Herzog's own narration and most of the interviews, you'll find that Herzog was NOT trying to justify Treadwell's behavior.

    Herzog has always been fascinated by people who go to extremes in pursuit of a dream (and he himself has often gone to extremes for his art) - but, even as he gives these people the human respect of portraying their experiences on film, he takes pains to show how those dreams are actually utterly preposterous and misguided, even crazy. That is to say - at no point does Herzog try to show the "logic of reason" of Treadwell's actions or beliefs - and one would have to completely ignore most everything going on in the film to believe otherwise.

    Herzog, in his own narration, points out at multiple times that Treadwell's anthropomorphism of the bears is misguided. At one of the most important points in the narration, Herzog tells us how he completely disagrees with Treadwell's assessment of the "basic nature" of the world - Herzog, unlike Treadwell, finds "chaos and murder" to be the most basic forms of nature. He finds Treadwell's attempts to pet the bears and to become "friends" with them utterly misguided - as he realizes that bears do NOT have human emotions, and that they do not become friends with humans. Heck, the very fact that Treadwell is murdered by one of the very bears he is trying to protect is THE central irony of the story - something Herzog is well aware of. Herzog, and most of the audience, are very aware of the fact that Treadwell was toeing a very fine line (remember all that talk about "lines in nature" and "going too far" and all that? That stuff, clearly repeated at multiple points in the film, was kind of important in understanding the meaning of the film, and in showing that Herzog was not supporting the character's actions.)

    Furthermore, Herzog takes great pains to show how even Treadwell's plan to "save the bears" is idiotic - as evidenced by the lengthy interview with the park ranger, who informs us that poaching in that part of the world is very rare and that Treadwell was, very likely, fighting windmills (to emphasize this fact, Herzog clearly shows how, in all his 13 summers in the wilderness, Treadwell only encountered a single group who may or may not have been poachers.)

    Treadwell is impervious to reason - those facts mean nothing to him. Herzog is well aware of that, and never tries to find "logic and reason" in Treadwell's actions. He does find some beauty in some of the footage, and in Treadwell's sincerity (though even that sincerity is called into question by the fact that he took multiple takes and very much seemed, at least sometimes, to be "performing" and creating an image for the camera.) But, ultimately, the film sees Treadwell's beliefs and actions as naive. So yeah - Treadwell is naive. Herzog is not.

    These aren't "subtexts" of the story - they are pretty clearly spelled out for the audience.

    It's rather decidedly not a glorification of paranoia and immaturity - it's rather a mature and compassionate, but critical, look at someone who is paranoid and immature. This is one of the most human, and humane, portraits of a misguided individual out there. So yes, it is a reflection of a human soul - one of the deepest reflections, in fact, in all of film. That you don't like what you see there - in the soul of someone who, for all his idiotic beliefs and actions, is still, resolutely "human" (and not just a "creature") - is hardly the fault of the film, or the filmmaker.
    8 years ago
  3. IMayNotBeKloot's avatar


    Phenomenal documentary. So respectfully composed. Werner doesn't treat the story as an unusual curiosity, or a conveniently compelling narrative - he treats it as a wonderful character study of a very interesting man. A man plainly confused among his vanity, insecurities and anger, and Werner manages to expose the truth and the beauty of it all.

    I clearly loved it. Well done, Werner. Bloody well done.
    5 years 8 months ago
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In 9 official lists

  1. This movie ranks #12 in Sight and Sound -The Greatest Documentaries of All Time
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  2. This movie ranks #13 in A.V. Club - The best films of the '00s
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  3. This movie ranks #32 in 100 Documentary Films (BFI Screen Guide)
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  4. This movie ranks #35 in The 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films
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  5. This movie ranks #116 in Harvard University's Suggested Film Viewing List: Non-Fiction Films (2012)
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  6. This movie ranks #146 in Cahiers du cinéma - Yearly top 10s
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  7. This movie ranks #381 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die
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  8. This movie ranks #403 in TimeOut's 1000 Films to Change Your Life
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  9. This movie ranks #557 in They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?
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