Environmental News Archive

An almost weekly update of environmental news, particularly marine updates, with occasional splatters of transportation, indigenous, ideas of sustainability and sustainable development from around the world.


Grizzly Man' explores dark, light sides of nature

[ed: Here's a docudrama that Singapore cinemas are likely to give a miss to... again! Last year they thought "Two Brothers" (a movie about two tiger siblings) wouldn't go well down with local audiences, and I wager they will give March of the Penguins the same cold shoulder, despite this being a sleeper summer hit in the States. Bah!]

Aug 2, 2005 Reuters

By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Acclaimed German filmmaker Werner Herzog, known as an iconoclast who shuns special effects for reality, finally found someone who complemented him, he said, but by then, the yin to Herzog's yang was dead.

Timothy Treadwell, an environmentalist who lived among wild grizzly bears in Alaska until he was fatally mauled by one in 2003, is that man, and he is the subject of Herzog's documentary "Grizzly Man" which debuts in U.S. theaters on Friday.

Treadwell went to great lengths in videotapes he recorded to show man and beast living harmoniously in nature. Herzog, by contrast, believes in a violent and chaotic world, he said, despite being labeled as the romanticist of new German cinema.

But in Treadwell's life, Herzog found a tale that embodied both the light and dark sides of human nature. It is the story of a dreamer who was brutally killed because his sense of reality was replaced with a fantasy life that played out annually in Alaska's Katmai National Park and Reserve.

"(The film) has moments of grandiosity, of a man who is in the realm of a rock star, yet one who is also haunted by demons," Herzog told Reuters.

For 13 years, Treadwell fancied himself a naturalist living among wild grizzlies in Alaska filming them, studying them, protecting them from poachers and refusing to listen to those who believed he was misguided.

He founded Grizzly People, a group dedicated to preserving bear habitats. He lectured school kids and earned fans on TV's "The Late Show with David Letterman" by telling of his adventures and showing videotapes featuring him with the animals he befriended.


Those videos are the same ones Herzog uses throughout "Grizzly Man" to show Treadwell losing his grip on reality and wanting to become more bear-like. For instance, audiences see Treadwell touching fresh grizzly feces and hear him reveling in the knowledge it was inside the bear only moments before.

Herzog also uses interviews with Treadwell's family, friends and associates to paint a picture of a man who was not exactly the person he portrayed himself to be.

Treadwell told people he hailed from Australia, when in fact he was raised in New York and lived in California.

He claimed to spend his days alone in the wilderness when his girlfriend Amie Huguenard was sometimes with him. Huguenard was mauled to death alongside Treadwell.

As a young man, Treadwell abused drugs and alcohol, but he credited his work with bears for his return to a sobriety.

Treadwell shares many traits with the obsessed characters who populate Herzog films such as 1972's "Aguirre: The Wrath of God," about a conquistador in search of El Dorado, and 1982's "Fitzcarraldo," in which an obsessed opera lover longs to build a theater in the South American jungle.

"These characters fascinate me," Herzog said. "I instantly recognize them, and they recognize me."

Herzog, 62, is a rugged individualist and self-taught filmmaker who tells stories his own way.

In 1974, he walked from Munich to Paris to see German film critic Lotte Eisner and wrote about it his book, "Vom Gehen im Eis" ("Walking on Ice"). For "Fitzcarraldo," his crew dragged a 300-plus ton ship over mountains because Herzog did not want to use special effects or models. Herzog preferred reality.

Treadwell, audiences learn in "Grizzly Man," longed for fantasy.

Watch the trailer for Grizzly Manhere