TV Party is a Friday feature in which Film Editors Dominick Mayer and Justin Gerber alongside Editor-in-Chief Michael Roffman suggest one movie apiece to enjoy over the weekend. Joining them each week will be two rotating film staff writers to help round out the selections. Seek out any of the films via Netflix, Amazon, Redbox, Hulu, OnDemand, or abandoned Blockbuster and Hollywood Video stores — however you crazy kids watch movies these days! Enjoy ’em for the first time, a second, or maybe a redemptive third.
For a film that many know anecdotally as “the doc about that guy who gets eaten by bears,” Grizzly Man is both a lot less lurid and a lot more nuanced than its reputation might suggest. Yes, in 2003, Timothy Treadwell was mauled to death by one of the grizzlies that the misguided but passionate nature enthusiast had befriended over the course of numerous trips to Katmai National Park in Alaska. Werner Herzog is a perfect match for Treadwell’s story; not only has much of his documentary work over the years focused alternately on the simultaneous beauty and brutality of nature and the struggles of Quixotic idealists, but Treadwell’s story is one that needs an eye that’s empathetic and unforgiving in equal measures.
Grizzly Man feels for Treadwell, to be sure (Herzog famously asked that the audio recording of his fatal encounter be destroyed, though it ultimately wasn’t), but doesn’t shy away from the madness of his pursuit. Herzog understands well that nature cannot be tamed and sees man’s obsession with conquering it as equal parts hubris and delusion. Treadwell truly loved the animals that eventually proved to be his undoing, but it was a love born out of the desire to conquer. Grizzly Man chronicles him as both an idealist and a madman, and in this it’s a truly honest portrait of impossible pursuit. It really does take a certain kind of man to chase the elusive and impossible, after all.