Monday, March 13, 2006


Lying on the couch a lot, trying to shake the virus. Lots of time for DVDs.

I remember vaguely seeing Timothy Treadwell on TV and thinking he was slightly goofy and enthusiastic about animals but probably an OK dude. I also vaguely remember news reports about his death. When I heard that Werner Herzog had made a documentary using Treadwell's footage I thought "why would a director who specializes in fucked-up characters and despair choose such a sun-shiny guy as subject?"

Watch the film and you'll see that Timothy Treadwell is not what he seemed on the surface. This was a deeply disturbed individual who attempted to project a pathetic fantasy idealization of Nature onto grizzly bears in the Alaskan wilderness. He had surprising success for more than a decade, and then got eaten. The footage of this mentally ill, sexually repressed, addictive personality is often heartbreaking and at times unintentionally hilarious (as is Herzog's Stroszek--but intentionally).

In the words of a helicopter pilot who assisted in the recovery of Treadwell's remains: "He got what he deserved." Treadwell's quest to "save" grizzlies likely hurt their chances by allowing them to become accustomed to humans. And yet Treadwell's emotional involvement with the creatures is a sight to behold, and much of his footage is as Herzog says exceptional. He was, in fact, an artist trying to forge himself. The documentary confronts Treadwell's quirky optimism about Nature and love amongst man and beast with Herzog's bleak view of the bears as emotionless hunters merely out for food. Great Richard Thompson soundtrack to boot.

Hamlet of course is a play featuring a play in its action, so Tom Stoppard forged a play enclosing them both from the perspective of two throw-away characters who die senselessly, pawns in a court intrigue. The result is great fun and a well-made flick. Gary Oldman as Rosencrantz--or is it Guildenstern?--proves that rationality and pragmatism are no hope where Art and Death and Human Nature are concerned, and Tim Roth cooly keeps his enthusiams in check. Bits of Hamlet seep in, and a thrice-layered drama works wonders. Po-mo Shakespeare.

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