Not my favourite Herzog. Partially, perhaps, because I resent having to admit that I relate more to Treadwell's childlike escapism here than to Herzog's radical existentialism (those foxes WERE SO his friends, Werner!) Partially because, while it seems so ready-made Herzog, I can't help but sense a bit of an opportunistic imposition of his world view onto the story, in a way I haven't with his other docs. Still: 3.5
Herzog's most immediately recognizable documentary, Grizzly Man tells the story of Timothy Treadwell, a man many would regard as insane, who chooses to live alone in the wilderness to "protect" bears, yet who is eaten by the very creatures he loves. While darkly tragic and, at times, harshly critical of its subject, it is a story of a regular, if flawed, person, and his lost innocence, kept alive through his footage.
There is something remarkable about this documentary. It is essentially a narrated found-footage story about an absolutely fascinating character that you almost couldn't invent. It shouldn't really work nearly as well as it does - Herzog pulls something magic out of a hat here.
In Treadwell, Herzog finds an archetypical hero; a man like Aguirre, Woyzeck or Kaspar Hauser driven mad by the modern world; lost into a fabled landscape disconnected from time; propelled along on a fated journey of self-destruction. Herzog's innate respect for Treadwell & refusal to condemn his actions ensure that the film works more as a found-footage variant on his usual themes & less as conventional documentary.
Timothy took his camera to the forrest because he wanted to show the bears from a gentler perspective yet all he did was reaffirm our beliefs of a merciless and unforgiving world. But his self-delusional and contradictory actions on video gave us a new perspective on humanity. And that made the whole journey worth it. So in the end, it wasn't the bears but the camera that gave meaning to his life & to his death.