Werner Herzog has made a perfect documentary. The trouble is that it is a compelling as it is disturbing.
I'll wait for you to make your decision to read further.
Mostly taken from footage shot by Timothy Treadwell (nee Timothy Dexter), an amateur wildlife enthusiast and self-proclaimed protector of grizzly bears in the Alaskan wilderness, Herzog tells the story of this man who believed that he had found his calling living, unprotected mind you, among these deadly giants.
Sounds completely daft, yes?
Treadwell was a lost soul who tried acting (He auditioned to be on Cheers, but lost to Woody Harrelson), alcohol, drugs, changing his name, surfing, and a variety of odd jobs. In short, he didn't fit in anywhere except when he first observed wild bears in Alaska. From then on, his life's work and fate were sealed.
To watch Treadwell's passion for these animals is to see a man fully in love with the bears, but clearly denies their wild and savage nature. These are animals that kill their young for food after all. What would a man mean to a ten-foot, 400 pound behemoth?
At best, lunch.
As passionate as Treadwell is about his beloved bears, he often reveals deep fissures in his mental stability. Even if he is performing for the camera, there is a hysteria which cannot be faked.
There are tender moments and moments of sheer beauty. A fox hangs about like a household pet. Footage of bears running on a foggy morning is magnificent. Stranger, interloper, or weirdo, he lived in their world and captured his subjects with such intimacy.