Grizzly Man by Werner Herzog Documentary


Werner Herzog’s movie Grizzly Man (2005) was one of the best films during its period. In fact, it got much acclamation in the way it presented the life and subsequent death of Timothy Treadwell. As clearly demonstrated in the film, he was assumed to have lived among Grizzlies before one of them actually ate him.

This movie was typically interesting to many viewers, but did not pass without creating controversy and uncertainty as would be examined hereafter. Therefore, the essay outlines a number of issues about Werner Herzog’s intention in the articulating of his documentary film, “Grizzly Man.” It gives the distinction between reality and illusion that is central in the film.

Film Techniques

In the film, the narrator uses various techniques in outlining his sentiments and opinion about the movie. Some of the techniques are as discussed below.


According to Lapinski, the framing of the film depicted a dream that does not display a clear start and ending (Lapinski 4). This means it was relatively ambiguous. In addition, the vastness of the wilderness that limited the precision of the events recorded in the film.

However, the framing also brings the familiar nature of the environment where the bears normally live and Treadwell never wanted to kill any of them. In this respect, he said that “I love them with all my heart, I will protect them. I will die for them” (Stagevu 1). Although the landscape is familiar, it remained so spectacular due to the inhabitants.


In the film, the setting is the wilds of Alaska where Treadwell is seen to be wearing a black jacket, probably exaggerated to be too large than his size. In addition, he was wearing sunglasses (White 1). The attire was prominent on the camera used in shooting the video. The setting also became attractive, but frightening because Treadwell was squatting right in front of two massive bears. This fierce setting was probably the best in attracting the attention of the viewers.


In order to make the film interesting, Herzog used editing techniques to eliminate the unwanted sections of documentary. In this regard, the narrator edited most of the scenes in the movie so that only the parts he believed were useful remained. Editing could also be used to merge the matching episodes together.


The scene was so fierce to the onlookers, but not to Treadwell who was depicted as having carefree relaxation within the closeness of the bears. In portraying the scene in the film, Treadwell says, “I’m out in the prime cut of the big green. Behind me are Ed and Rowdy, members of an up-and-coming sub adult gang” (Stagevu 1).

However, he seems to be, and looks contented, though a bit frightened. His fear is depicted from his statements that “they’re challenging everything, even me”, and “If I show weakness, if I retreat, I may be hurt, I may be killed” (White 1). This was a clearly frightening scenario that could make the audience be glued to the movie.

Voice Over

This technique was also well articulated in the movie as the case of Treadwell’s utterances and those of the bears. For example, his voice could be heard over and over, though ridiculous, but exclaiming that “He is a big bear” (Stagevu 1).


In the film, the narrator also employs dialogue as a technique of clarifying the encounter between Treadwell and the bears. According to Prager, Herzog used dialogue in discussing the excitement that Treadwell had and the impacts of his wilderness adventure (Prager 26).

His Interviews with Treadwell’s Footage

In his interview conducted with Keith Morrison, Herzog explained Treadwell’s encounter with the bears (White 1). In most cases, he interviewed the people he was familiar with. Initially, he interviewed Sam Egli who argued that he helped in removing the remains of Hugenard and those of Treadwell. In this interview, Egli acknowledged that the remains filled four garbage bags, which were quite large enough in size (White 1).

He went on to argue that Treadwell deserved death for stepping close to the bears. In the interview he reiterated that the bears might have considered the person as insane, perhaps the reason for delaying with him. He also believed that Treadwell thought that although the bears were frightening, they were harmless (Sanders 1). In this case, the author wanted to reveal the deception that someone might have in mind about animals, thus warn other people on their interaction with the bears.

The other person who was also interviewed was Marie Gaede who believed that it was a religious occurrence. On the other hand, Marc who was also interviewed claimed that Treadwell’s actions could be attributed to a political experience (White 1). He equated the bear to a politician who uses the liberals in all his undertakings.

Larry Van Daele was also another interviewee, whose knowledge in bears was useful in understanding the occurrence (White 1). In his opinion, he only provided an assumption about the number of years that Treadwell spent with the bears in the desert, could have not resulted to his killing, were it not for a drastic change (Sanders 1).

How Herzog Touches Upon

According to Herzog, he was optimistic that Treadwell acted as a movie maker, not in an ecological manner (Herzog 1). In fact, he was amazed with the tactical approach that Treadwell used in creating the story such as taking shots. Prager also revisited Herzog thought about Treadwell’s excitement on aspects dealing with the beauty of nature without fully being aware of its consequences (Prager 37).

In reality, he explored Treadwell based on the way the latter expressed self on the camera (Herzog 1). He investigated Treadwell’s innermost being, his exhilarations and his demons and the manner those attributes contributed to his interaction with the bears for many years.

The way this Movie is a Tribute

In one way, the movie was a tribute to Treadwell for his creativity and courage in shooting the film, perhaps knowing or assuming the dangers associated with the actions. As evidenced in the film, living in the wilderness with bears was due to Treadwell’s courage and ambition to leave legacy (Mayo 57). The film is also depicted a sense of courage as Treadwell’s said in this statement,

“I think the storm has actually gotten a little weaker, but in the course of it”

getting stronger, it crushed the wall in and dent some of the poles and you really can’t do much about it, because once they get like that, they stay just kinda bunged in and you’re screwed and all that” (Stagevu 1).

Whether the Movie is a Warning

Here, the film also had strong warning to the audience. For instance, in the movie Treadwell states, “I feel good about myself doing it. And I want to continue, I really hope I can. But if not, be warned” (Stagevu 1). Since he repeated this statement, it seemed he knew the severity of the consequences of his actions. However, his confidence carried him although the film. Sanders also established that “Treadwell was winning fans for the bears, and was being more careful to warn people not to attempt what he did” (Sanders 1).

Impact of the Film

Although this film has attracted many proponents and opponents, it created a huge impact on psychoanalysis and on issues relating to literary narratives, whether depicting a reality or mere fictitious (White 1). For example, Treadwell brought the perception that he was experienced about the lives of the bear despite the reality that he was merely a college dropout with limited knowledge concerning the animals (White 1).

His work also influenced the scientists who are specializing in the study of bears. Secondly, the film had numerous impacts on the future explorations, on the world of bears (White 1). In fact, this film would increase the social positioning of the scholars to unveil more issues the lives of the bears.

The other important aspect of the film is that it is likely to contribute to the people’s closeness to the wild animals. In this regard, Treadwell stated that “You can see the bond that has developed between this very wild animal, and this vary, fairly wild person” (White 1).

Being close to the wild animals is one way of understanding their lives and environment. As Peacock and Peacock indicated in their analysis of the film, it was only through enhancing the relationship between the animals and the people when they argued that “Treadwell hoped the film would increase education about the wild animals’ lives and environment” (Peacock and Peacock 64).

Despite the movie being so horrific, it was an educative film that cautions the people to be more vigilant and careful while interacting with nature, especially in the case of unknown environment and animals. The film would also help change the people’s mindset concerning the wild nature. The other impact was that the film would contribute to the rise of morality in society, by referring to the fall of Treadwell (White 1).


In summary, Werner Herzog’s movie “Grizzly Man” (2005) was one of the best films among the many, he had done. It utilized different techniques in communicating the message of courage and adventures into the world of unknown. The effective framing, setting, editing, clarity of the scenes, voice over and the use of dialogue created a meaning in the movie. To this extent, it depicted the reality and fiction about the occurrence.

The narrator effectively used Interviews with Treadwell’s footage to collect information that he thought would be useful in making the movie. According to the issues, which Herzog raised in the movie, it sounded as a tribute to Treadwell for his creativity and courage in shooting the film. On the other hand, the movie had warning to the audience about adventuring to the world of unknown. Finally, the film had a lot of impacts on psychoanalysis, education, future literature, and movie making.

Works Cited

Herzog, Werner. (Documentary). 2007.

Lapinski, Mike. Death in the Grizzly Maze: The Timothy Treadwell Story. Guilford: Falcon Publishers, 2005. Print.

Mayo, Matthew. Cowboys, Mountain Men, and Grizzly Bears: Fifty of the Grittiest Moments in the History of the Wild West. Honky-tonk: Two Dot Books, 2010. Print.

Peacock, Doug and Peacock, Andrea. The Essential Grizzly: The Mingled Fates of Men and Bears. New York, NY: Lyons Press, 2006. Print.

Prager, Brad. The Cinema of Werner Herzog: Aesthetic Ecstasy and Truth. London: Wallflower Press, 2007. Print.

Sanders, Kevin. . 2008.

Stagevu, Grizzly Man (Video). 2005.

White, John. On Werner Herzog’s Documentary Grizzly Man: Psychoanalysis, Nature, and Meaning. 2008. Web.

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