In 2003 Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend Amie Huegenard were killed and eaten by a bear. That was Treadwell’s 13 year in bear country, and he left behind 5 years of footage. These shots of the grizzlies, the foxes, and of Treadwell’s pieces to camera are what make up the bulk of this documentary. But this is not a wildlife film, instead Herzog looks at Treadwell himself, questioning his actions and words. Herzog also points out that throughout his footage Treadwell constantly points out that he is on his own out here with the bears, alone with nature. When in actual fact his girlfriend was with him. And despite the hours and hours of footage, it is almost impossible to find a clear shot of Huegenard.
It is a fascinating film; more for Treadwell’s self-delusion rather than any insight into the life of a bear. He constantly talks about protecting the bears, and about poachers, but there is never any sign of this danger. In fact most of the time the bears were on a nature reserve. Instead the wilderness was a place of escapism for Treadwell, where he could pretend he was doing “great work” but at the same time escape reality as much as possible.
There are also interviews with people who knew Treadwell, other bear-people, the pilot who found his remains. His parents. And it builds up a picture of a man who really wasn’t well in the head. And despite his great love for the bear he probably caused more damage than anything else. But you have to feel sorry for him, and even more for the girlfriend, Huegenard who was scared of bears from the very outset.
Compelling footage, combined with Herzog’s narration, and Treadwell’s enthusiastic insansity, it is a strange, strange documentary.