The Movie Dictator Club for the month of April, 2010 takes me back to the world of the documentary, and that never goes well!
Written By: Werner Herzog
Directed By: Werner Herzog
I won’t spend a lot of time dealing with my natural aversion to documentaries, I don’t see a good reason for spending much time on said aversion by this point. For those not aware, and really if you read what I write you should be well aware, I dislike documentaries with all of my heart. I don’t like the format, I don’t like the biased nature of every single documentary I have ever seen, and in general most documentaries bore me to tears. Certain people continue to try and expose me to different documentaries, hoping that theirs will be the documentary that changes my opinion on the genre. This time michael x decided to take a crack at my anti-documentary ways by assigning me Grizzly Man for my dictation. In full disclosure, he didn’t know of my documentary aversion when he assigned Grizzly Man, but in assigning this film he lobbed the best grenade at my shelter of documentary hate. What will happen when I watch a film from a genre I hate with a passion that is directed by my second favorite director of all-time?
Unfortunately Grizzly Man began much the same way that most of my documentary viewings have begun, with me struggling to stay interested in what was on my screen. This feeling would return from time to time, most notably whenever Werner Herzog would let the narrative meander a bit and get away from the central conflict he had set up in my eyes. But, after a bit something began to happen. No, I didn’t all of a sudden have a realization about the documentary genre, but I did begin to see the underpinnings of classic Herzog on display. I also realized that my reading of Grizzly Man was going to be a tad different than what I have read from most others, but as more time ticked by it became clearer to me that Grizzly Man wasn’t a portrait of Tim Treadwell, rather it was a conversation between Herzog and Treadwell about nature.
This aspect of Grizzly Man fascinated me. On the one hand you have Treadwell, a man who takes a sentimental view of nature, a man who believes that humanity can impose its will upon nature and live in harmony with nature as a result. At the opposite end of the spectrum resides Herzog, for him nature is anything but harmonious and the mere existence of man within nature leads to nothing but death, destruction and strife. In essence Grizzly Man is the argument of naturalism versus chaos theory, the idea that nature can be understood versus the idea that nature is wild and can’t be understood by the mind of man.
Throughout Grizzly Man Herzog allows for Treadwell’s viewpoint to be given ample time. He never smothers what Treadwell has to say, instead opting for the approach of every once in a while interjecting his own thoughts on nature and how his views differ from Treadwell. He frames this argument, or debate, around the looming death of the subject of his documentary. This gives Grizzly Man an eerie quality, and eeriness that is only enhanced by the beautiful visuals supplied by both Herzog and Treadwell. The idea of a well thought out debate about nature taking place over the top of beautiful nature shots while we await the death of the central figure in the film is only something I would ever think to get out of a Herzog film.
Grizzly Man didn’t change the way I look at documentaries, I still dislike the genre a great deal. Instead Grizzly Man reaffirmed the brilliance that I find in Werner Herzog and showed that he has the ability to take something I have utter disdain for and make it interesting. Grizzly Man is a bit slow going at times, and could have used a smidgen of narrative tightening, but it is an interesting debate and in many ways a dark comedy. In short, Grizzly Man is a Werner Herzog film.