Having not seen a Werner Herzog film before, this documentary was something of a documentary on him rather than his actual subject, Timothy Treadwell, a man who spent 13 summers in Alaska believing he was trusted by the bears, and who, along with his girlfriend, was killed and eaten by a bear in 2003.
Having said that it’s an astonishing look into a desire to be with nature, at home with the wilderness, sometimes manic, clearly depressed and unstable Treadwell in his jilting deliveries on the bears, and his obsession with camera takes. Herzog narrates the footage brilliantly. His truly expressive and unique German-English accent allows him to deliver one-liners in such a way as to make them utterly compelling- “…this landscape in turmoil is a metaphor of his soul…”, “…over there is his campsite where he battled his demons…”, “…teddy bears meant a lot to him…”
At times, due to his brilliant accent, I almost thought the documentary sounded like a pastiche, or even a spoof- maybe that’s due to the unlikely material it showcases. Yet that is unfair, and Werner clearly cares- as when he is visibly moved and comforts Treadwell’s ex-girlfriend on hearing the footage of Treadwell’s horrific death.
Herzog offers his own verdict on Treadwell’s sense that the Bear area as some sort of Eden. In a classically, delivered line, Herzog says …here I differ with Treadwell…he seemed to ignore the fact that in nature there are predators. I believe the common denominator of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder…
The ending of the film is very nice…a homage to Treadwell in its own way, showing him where he was happiest. A brilliant documentary for both its subject matter and its directing and narrating by the unique Werner Herzog.