Universal acclaim - based on 35 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 121 Ratings

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  • Starring: ,
  • Summary: In his mesmerizing new film, acclaimed director Werner Herzog explores the life and death of amateur grizzly bear expert and wildlife preservationist Timothy Treadwell. (Lions Gate Films)
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 34 out of 35
  2. Negative: 0 out of 35
  1. Brilliant, poetic, and utterly unique.
  2. 100
    A small masterpiece of a documentary that takes us into the heart of a complex darkness.
  3. Reviewed by: Dan Jolin
    A complex, unique and engrossing journey into the murky recesses of an unhinged mind. It really needs to be seen to be believed.
  4. 88
    Herzog tries to make sense out of the blond-haired young man, who looked an awful lot like Kinski.
  5. Herzog is primarily interested in Treadwell the filmmaker, but you'll likely be fascinated with him as a human being.
  6. The film is repetitious. Herzog has varied the original footage with some interviews that he conducted with a former Treadwell girlfriend and some other friends and observers. Still, an hour of it would have been more effective than the present feature length.

See all 35 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 38 out of 62
  2. Negative: 16 out of 62
  1. Jwv
    Jan 22, 2014
    I must be frank; I didn't appreciate Werner's (the documentary makers) narration in the beginning. There is little intonation, his sentences are somewhat chopped and he has an unusual accent. During the whole journey however, we get to know Werner better because of his very personal opinion, sharp analysis and sensible and intelligent commentary. Near the end, I even viewed him as a companion with whom I was delving deeper into the mind of Timothy. Werner does an extremely good job of complicating Timothy's character with sharp analysis and good footage selection and arranging. I like the honesty of the selection process too; he both incorporates the opinions of Timothy's confidantes and of critics. The honesty and plainness with which the interviewees speak also touched me.

    Like with the narration, I also adopted an opinion about Timothy polar to the one I ended with and for Werner to achieve this is a great feat. In the beginning, I thought Timothy was a great guy. Due to the directness and authenticity of his footage (this because of his own shot camera footage and the lack of social control thereabouts), the enthusiasm and pure, passionate love is tangible (and adrenaline too), even through the obstacle the medium is. You cannot but sympathize when Timothy talks about his life and how he found purpose in his lifestyle. He reminded me of Cesar Millan in the extreme, someone with a pure love and one vision. His genuine and childish enthusiasm and affection for nature is truly heart-warming, this man is all passion for his job. What's also great is Timothy's respect for the majesty of these grizzlies and his knowing that the only thing that keeps him from death there is the bear's tolerance that he wins by his own mental strength. He is a person to be admired because he lived the way he wanted, even in the face of danger and opposition. Sadly enough however, I don't admire him for his work because I feel from watching that Timothy was at fault in invading the bears' lives and playing their unwanted protector.

    The documentary does a great job of complicating our initial image of Tim as a fighter for good. Timothy's diaries also reveal a flawed side, a side very hungry for recognition and being rebellious for the sake of it. It is quite disturbing to see Timothy talk to the bears as if they were humans, his long periods of loneliness may account for this, but it is still remarkable and strange. After finishing the documentary, the question of how Timothy actually helped these animals in doing what he does remains vague, and it doesn't help that the narrator explicitly states in the beginning of the movie that the bears filmed actually already live in a wildlife park. These and other facts suggest that Timothy might have actually lived among these bears not with the primary goal to better their lives, but that it might have been a solution for a broken man that was done with society and needed some time to figure himself out. I strongly suspect that his living in this wild, primordial nature might have largely been a therapy for him, a way out of the complicatedness and disappointments that human society brings. I'm convinced the bumblebee-footage answer our question about why Timothy wishes to die there of any places. Timothy liked living on the edge (as his childhood story suggests too), and I think he kicked on the adrenaline and tension that comes from the knowledge that to fail mentally in this wilderness is to die. It was a challenge to him to survive every day and every hour, of which each moment he lives works life- and character-affirming; each moment is a celebration of his mental strength. I believe he didn't want to die the way the bumblebee supposedly did, quite unexpected and in a very non-heroic and meaningless way. Therefore I believe that while his friends talk about his death being tragic, Timothy is delighted in the fact that he died in this way, always fighting with something greater than himself. This is the second reason why I think Timothy was there more for himself than for anything else. Another problem comes in his revering of the poop of one of the grizzlies. He absolutely sees them as divine, which makes us again question if we should search more meaning behind his death than someone dying because he was enchanted by a crazy ecstasy. His direct interference in nature and crazy pleading for the help of higher powers also reinforce the belief that Timothy's problem was mainly a personal problem. Timothy seemed to have had appropriated this piece of Eden for himself and any offense to it he may have seen as offense against his person, which makes his fight too personal and vicious for what it should be. He has a way of wildly dramatizing the importance of his self-imposed and self-created mission and his narcissism. In the end, you do ask yourself whether this is a documentary on nature or a documentary on a troubled human psyche.
  2. Dec 16, 2010
    Almost a guaranteed hit story here to start with lol.... Guy goes out to remote bear infested place, stays there for months for 3yrs, gets 15mins of fame, then gets eaten by bear .... along with being slightly nuts and a borderline social outcast ?? Come on how can you lose. Well.... Herzog's commentary was hit and miss and some holes for sure

    but I was entertained solid 7

    PS - background music was interesting also

See all 62 User Reviews