Grizzly Man - Documentary Film Analysis Essay

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Middlebury College
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Grizzly Man is a 2005 American documentary film that chronicles the life and death of environmentalist and bear enthusiast, Timothy Treadwell. Werner Herzog directed the film, and he included Treadwells footage of his interactions with the grizzly bears in Alaska, and interviews from his family, friends and even bear or animal experts. The film focuses on Treadwells quest to protect the grizzly bears from being hunted and killed by humans. However, it also shows that his enthusiasm in protecting the bears was not only misguided but in the long run can threaten the habitat and the peaceful co-existence that the bears and humans have enjoyed over the years. It feels like Herzog is educating the audience of the film by showing that even though people may be enthusiastic about certain things such as the grizzly bears, and devote their lives to protecting them. It is important to see the dangers that wildlife presents and people should be prepared for some form of rebellion no matter their cause. The promotional poster for this film emphasizes this message. The bear is portrayed to be in a dominant and threatening pose; it seems like it will attack. However, Treadwell appears to be totally unfazed; it is like he cannot read the signs or heed the warnings of the bear.

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One of the purposes of Herzog, when he was creating this film, was to persuade the viewer that Treadwells expedition was both informative and a worthy cause. It may seem absurd for the viewer that Treadwell chose to camp with the Bears for a specific period on an annual basis to the point that he was confident that he had gained the trust of some of the bears. It seems like he wished to be like the bear whisperer. The reason for this is that Park Rangers and bear experts state these animals are wild and potentially dangerous, and therefore extreme caution should be taken when approaching them. However, he had spent 13 summers in Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska living with the bears. To ensure that the viewers do not deem Treadwell to be insane and that he deserved to die the way he did, the director uses pathos to create an emotional effect on the viewers. Herzog showed that he was not only a passionate animal activist but that he was also a deeply troubled individual who resorted to living with the bears as a way to escape the harsh realities that he had faced in his life.

The interviews from his (Treadwell) family and friends was particularly insightful in helping the viewer learn more about him and become emotionally attached to him. The interviews from his close friends show the audience that he was a passionate activist; he believed that what he did was right because; it was going to ensure that people had a deeper understanding of the grizzly bears. The pathos appeal is also used when Treadwell interacts with the bear in the footages that he created. It is important to note that he characterized the bears as friendly, and even provided them with specific human roles such as mamma bear, baby, and names such as Wendy. By providing the bear with human qualities and names, it created an emotional appeal and is meant to help the viewer not to view this animal as a wild creature, but as a friendly animal.

The director of this film performed an exemplary job regarding how he structured the film. The reason for this was that; it was important for him to show that Treadwell was genuinely passionate about the bears. This can also be used to invoke the pathos appeal, ensuring that the viewer learns that although he or she may view a grizzly bear as a dangerous animal, Treadwell felt that they were friendly creatures that were often misunderstood and provoked, and therefore, it led them to gain a negative reputation.

In as much as the film was meant to show Treadwells passion in protecting the grizzly bears, it is also important to educate people of the danger these animals pose to humans. Herzogs narration on the original footage that was captured by Treadwell presents factual information in regards to the Bears. It specifies their natural living habitats and uses scientific terminology such as tagging the bears with numbers instead of providing them with human names. It creates a logic appeal, and it is meant to counter the emotional sentiments that the viewer may have developed while watching the film. The facts about the bears demonstrate that these are wild animals, and at no point in time should someone assume them to be friendly and therefore approach them. This is also reiterated by the interviews that were provided by the Park Rangers and bear experts. Another way that Herzog uses logos in this film is through the use of rhetorical questions such as; could be filming his this bear 141? The purpose of the rhetoric questions is to create a sense of doubt in the audience who are watching the film and at the same time question the actions of Treadwell. It will make the audience feel that he was misguided, and even trying too much to make his films more appealing, instead of focusing on educating people more about the bears. For instance, when he is playing with bear cubs, or when he is filming two adult bears fighting for mating rights. Such actions are dangerous mainly because of the position he was putting himself in. It is a known fact that most animals attack humans because they feel that the people pose a threat to their young ones.

The ethical appeal in this film was achieved through the interviews of the Park rangers and bear experts. They have more knowledge about the bears and therefore are in a better position to critic Treadwells actions. Some of the experts felt that his actions may have hurt the conservancy program of these bears. Park rangers believe that his interactions with the bears may in future lead to an increase in human-bear conflict. He made bears more accustomed to humans, and this can be potentially dangerous for both the humans and the bears. The reason for this is that the bears may begin to be comfortable looking for food in human settlements, and it will force people to kill them because they are trespassing, an action that Treadwell repeated for 13 summers when he lived among the bears.

In conclusion, Herzog begins by showing Treadwells passion for the bears and how he interacted with them by showing the various footages that he recorded over a period of 13 years. However, he uses the logos and ethos appeal to talk about the Bears, the dangers they pose and how Treadwell risked his life for 13 years before a bear killed him. Although a person may feel that he or she is passionate about a certain thing, it does not mean that he or she should approach the issue with reckless abandon. Wild animals are dangerous and unpredictable, and caution should be taken when dealing or approaching them.

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