Saturday, August 26, 2006

Herzog's Grizzly Man and Aguirre: Wrath of God

All great artists have their own unique shtick, a singular vision that can be seen in all their works. It's like a journo's beat; H.S.T's was the death of the American dream. For Werner Herzog, from what I've seen of him, it's deconstructing the deluded, people who were teetering on the edge and then keeled over.

In Grizzly Man, with considerable sensitivity and pragmatism, he documents the story of Timothy Treadwell, a gonzo wildlife documentaratian cum activist who is in love with his subject: Alaskan Grizzly bears. He spends 12 years living in close proximity with them, appointing himself as the sole protector and caretaker of these bears. On his 13'th year of filming, he is eaten by them.

Herzog salvages 100 hours of primo footage from this man's life, where his delusions really come out in the open. Treadwell's life is examined; from intimate cam confessionals, his childlike conversations with foxes and bears, his life as a failed actor and a former substance abuser, his failure to connect with complexity of the real world, or understand the brutality of the wild. It's a picture of how man finds meaning, however contrived, in an uncaring universe.

In Aguirre, Wrath of God, a small party of Spanish Conquistadors head down the Amazon River in search of El Dorado, a fabled city of gold. As the search gets bogged down by weather, so does the size of the party, until a mutinous Aguirre leads a small group into a disastrous foray down the river. The movie is slow, surreal, and wild, some of the shots are really out there I'd hate to describe it and spoiler it for you folks. Watch it if you havent.

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