After I was able to get over the grizzly bears not being named Z-Bo, Marc, Conley, and the Grindfather (Tony Allen), the film provided a search for knowledge, truth, and reality through the life of Timothy Treadwell. The documentary pegs Treadwell as the normal rebellious youth. He starts off as an average all-American kid but goes to college and gets involved in drugs. He moves to California and fails to establish himself as a Hollywood level actor. As a child, Treadwell always loved animals. When he found an opportunity to work with grizzlies he seized the opportunity. Many people called him crazy and thought he was asking for a death sentence. However, working with the grizzlies offered Treadwell the opportunity to heal himself and search for his own reality.
Throughout the shots of Treadwell that Herzog chose for his documentary, Treadwell talked about the Alaskan wildlife as his home. He clearly loved being there with the grizzlies and he even made friends with some very cute foxes. He repeatedly differentiated between the human world and his world. As the documentary progresses, Treadwell expresses more and more disdain for the human world. Treadwell makes the animal world his own reality. Although people continued to tell him that he should not be out there living with the grizzlies, he could not help but live out there. It had become his world and his truth.
The story of Treadwell is similar to the story of the tribe that Herzog talks about in “On the Absolute, the Sublime and Ecstatic Truth.” In this story, Herzog describes how a tribe believed that they owned the land they were on because they had always been there. It was their truth and their reality. Although Treadwell had no connection the grizzlies and Alaska before his work there, he created the truth and the reality of his life in Alaska amongst the grizzlies. Treadwell valued the life he had in the wild and the knowledge he gained from it. However, he got progressively more and more “crazy” throughout the documentary. It is clear that Herzog disagreed with some of Treadwell’s decisions and chose to portray Treadwell as a losing his grasp on reality and society.
Herzog, who I thought sounded too similar to Christoph Waltz for it not to be him, in his own creation of this documentary, established his own vision of truth. He wanted to show that Treadwell could not overcome his dicey background and he eventually deteriorated as a human being. The more time Treadwell spent with the bears, Herzog made it seem that Treadwell was trying to become a bear and lost his grip on reality. This decline ensured his own demise. He was unable to return to humanity and understand that grizzly bears are dangerous and human killers. I wonder how much of what Herzog thought himself came through in his work. I had heard that he did not show all of the actual clips of Treadwell in consecutive order. So it is possible that in order to show a “deterioration,” he had to jump from year to year.
Of course, Herzog mentions the questionable truth of movies in his essay as well. He claims that it is harder and harder to understand truth and reality with the advancement of technology. The Internet, video games, and movies have complicated the real world. They are able to recreate life, which seems very real, but is not what we consider society or real. Herzog’s film Grizzly Man has to be considered as a part of this discussion. We are unable to discern for ourselves whether or not Treadwell actually lost touch with reality, which lead to his ironic death at the hand of one of the animals he tried to protect.