A Perfect Match - Padeke
Anyone who has followed the trajectory of Werner Herzog from the time of "Even Dwarfs Started Small" will understand the immediate appeal that the Treadwell story must have had for this intensely brilliant German director. Treadwell must have seemed to Herzog like a Laguna Beach version of his Fitzcarraldo and his Aguirre and even of Herzog himself in his more unhinged moments. This film appears at first to be a fair minded documentary about Tim Treadwell, the 'protector' of all things natural and wild in the remote regions of Alaska. What Herzog shows us, however, is that what Treadwell really needed protection from was reality itself and that his escape into the wilds was just a deadly game of denial. The film is also a meditation on the brute force of nature, on art and on human hubris. My wife found the 'character' of Tim Treadwell so ludicrous and offensive that she had to leave the theater. For my part, I was in awe of both Treadwell's incredible physical courage coupled with his absolute lack of judgment and his insane narcissism. He struck me as a cross between Pee-Wee Herman and Marlon Perkins, the guy who narrated the Mutual of Omaha nature documentaries that showed up on Sunday afternoons in the 60's and 70's. The word is that Hollywood, in the person of Leonardo DiCaprio, was a financial supporter of Treadwell's 'mission'in Alaska and that a Hollywood version of the story is due out sometime soon with Di Caprio playing the lead. I know I won't be going to see that version because it will just continue the lie and the myth that Treadwell tried so hard to create and sustain. Even at his most intense moments of profoundity Treadwell had nothing to 'say' to anyone about either bears or himself. It was all self-serving and self-congratulatory and it is only in his grotesque death at the hands of a rogue grizzly that any meaningful message finally comes across. (Herzog thankfully spares us from the actual experience which was caught on audio but not on video because the lens cap had been left on.) Its hard not to feel sorry for Tim Treadwell and the young woman who died with him, but the 'native' scientist in the film put it quite nicely "My people have been living nicely with bears for thousands of years and we know enough to stay out of each other's way." Tim Treadwell wanted desperately to cross the boundary into the 'way' of the bear because the 'way of the human' was too much for him. Despite his goofy, childish demeanor he revealed himself to be a man of deep anger and resentment. However, if the bears had let him live he would probably be considered something of a folk-hero in 'reality' obsessed America. Herzog shows us that there was nothing real about Treadwell at all and that the bears knew a lot more about him than he ever would of them.
Review published on the 22 October 2007 00:18
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