Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Movie Review: Grizzly Man.

I love documentaries.

At least, good ones, like Hoop Dreams, Roger & Me, Stevie and

I pulled in another worthy documentary over the Labor Day weekend: Grizzly Man.

This movie chronicles the story of Timothy Treadwell. Without any weapon, Mr. Treadwell lived among bears in remote Alaska for 13 summers. He recorded his interactions with them on video. He named them, and talked to them like friends. In the off-season, he traveled to schools to show his footage to children without charge.

Mr. Treadwell gained a level of notoriety; he appeared on David Letterman's show once. However, he became a news item when a bear fatally mauled him and a companion in the Alaskan wilderness in 2003.

The film operated on two levels. On the surface, his remarkable footage gifted the movie with the quality of a unique nature documentary. The movie is replete with up close and personal images of bears in their habitat.

On a deeper and more complex level, the movie presented a psychological study of Mr. Treadwell. About half way in, the movie elucidated Mr. Treadwell's life leading up to his unconventional decision to go to Alaska and live like bears.

The movie revealed that he had a substance abuse problem; he described it as alcohol. Some said he struggled with other drugs. One explained that Mr. Treadwell spiraled downward when he lost out to Woody Harrelson for the bartender role on Cheers. Mr. Treadwell reported that he tried everything else to free himself from the grip of addiction, and only gave it up when he gave his life to the animals.

In this interview, he made a telling confession: the animals gave his life meaning and purpose. Several times he remarked that he was not a religious person (but he did pray to whoever would listen for rain for the animals).

Mr. Treadwell was a complex and diverse personality. The movie reflected this reality because it was not totally laudatory in its portrayal. In fact, it distanced itself from some of his beliefs, and included some unflattering footage. Nevertheless, the movie was generally sympathetic to this man so passionate about what he was doing that he would risk death to save those who could kill him.

I'll conclude with an aside concerning Orange County, California. I saw the movie in an Irvine theater. Unexpectedly, one of his close friends mentioned in the film that she met him when they worked at Gulliver's restaurant--around the corner in Irvine. He also worked just up the road at the Queen Mary in Long Beach.

Grizzly Man receives a B+.