THE LAST STAND OF 'THE GRIZZLY MAN'
In "Grizzly Man" Werner Herzog has created yet another vitally important film document of the triumphs and tribulations of the human will. In this case, it's the tragic story of the American naturalist Timothy Treadwell. For decades, Herzog has been alternating between feature films and documentaries. Both genres have been used to fascinating ends by this talented director, but it's really his documentaries that have provided the most provocative and lasting results. Regardless of the genre, however, Herzog's films, for the most part, can be singled out for their artistry and their obsessiveness. He is also a master storyteller, and the tales he weaves are unique testaments to the power of man's volition, his will power.
In Herzog's universe, man needs to have a strong will if he is to survive his confrontation with Creation. There is no such thing as harmony and balance. Often times in this confrontation, Herzog's characters cross the line into madness. However, man has no choice in the matter, as Herzog sees it. In "Grizzly Man" he states, "I believe the common character of the universe is not harmony, but hostility, chaos and murder." Man must push himself and exert his will to the extreme or be crushed by nihilistic forces.
It is certainly quite understandable in this day and age (what many are calling the End Times) that a filmmaker of Herzog's sensitivity would find the universe chaotic, hostile and murderous. And yet, with just a little help, one can see that there is actually great order and sublimity to Creation. The problem lies with mankind and its great failure to become conscious of and adapt to the Perfect Laws which govern this Creation. It is man who has brought fear and pestilence and disorder into the universe, not the Creator.
In order to receive complete enlightenment on man's plight in the universe, it is first necessary to acquire the correct knowledge of all the activities in Creation. Such Creation-Knowledge was already offered to mankind in Germany at a very special time in its history - at a critical time, when the German people correctly sensed the Call of destiny for their nation, but had ended up forfeiting their high mission of leading the world in a Spiritual Reformation by choosing the loudest prattler (Hitler) over the Voice of Truth. This New Voice ringing out across their land was calling on them to summon up all their courage for a severe self-examination, instead of lulling them into a state of comfortable self-intoxication, as did Hitler. It was precisely through this demand for personal, spiritual exertion and reformation based on the new, unprecedented Knowledge of the Laws of Creation that the people were meant to recognize the genuineness of the help being offered to them. This help came in a book entitled "IN THE LIGHT OF TRUTH: THE GRAIL MESSAGE", ("Im Lichte der Wahrheit: Gralsbotschaft") and was penned by a man writing under the name of Abd-ru-shin (1875-1941). For the first time in mankind's history, it offered explanations of the very causes of our present state of global (as well as personal)suffering, the pervasive atmosphere of murder, rape and our overwhelming bewilderment at this whole "chaotic" mess. These detailed explanations are contained in a three-volume edition, but here is a brief overview of our human predicament:
"If man had not failed so miserably to carry out the task for which he was destined, then much, everything, would look different today! Neither would the so-called "fight" have taken an the form in which it shows itself at present!The fighting instinct would have been ennobled, spiritualised by the upward surging will of man. Its original uncouth effect, instead of increasing as it does now, would gradually have changed under the right spiritual influence and become a united, cheerful incentive to help one another forward, which would require the same energy as the most violent struggle. But with this difference, that a struggle is followed by exhaustion, while in mutually helping one another a great increase in energy would be the consequence!
Also in the reproduction of Creation, in which the spiritual will of man is the strongest influence, there would finally have set in for all creatures the Paradise-like state, just as it is in the real Creation, where there is no struggle and no apparent cruelty required any longer! This Paradise-like condition, however, does not consist of idleness, but is equivalent to being most energetically astir, to real personal fully-conscious life!
That this could not happen is the guilt of the human spirit!...Only the complete failure of the human spirit in Creation through the misuse of the spiritual power entrusted to it, the effects of which were diverted downwards instead of upwards to Luminous Heights, has brought about the present unsound aberrations!
Man has already trifled or gambled away even the ability to see his mistake! Thus if I wanted to say more about it I would only be preaching to deaf ears! He who really wishes to "listen" and is able to seek earnestly will find all he needs in my Message. And he will also find everywhere explanations about the great failure which has brought on such unspeakably serious disasters in so many varied forms!..
Try to observe calmly what you usually call Nature - the mountains, the lakes, the woods, and the meadows, at all seasons! Man is enraptured by the beauty that meets his gaze! And now reflect: That which gives you so much happiness and refreshment is the fruit of the activity of all that comprises animistic substantiality which, in Creation, ranks below the spiritual, with the power of which you have been endowed!
Then seek out the fruits of your work, you who are spiritual and who should accomplish higher things than animistic substantiality, which is actually ahead of you!
And what do you find? Only feeble imitations of what animistic substantiality has already achieved, but no progress towards ideal heights in all that is living and thus in Creation! With nothing but degenerated creative instincts mankind only try lifelessly to imitate existing forms, whereas with a free and conscious spirit, and their eyes uplifted to the Divine, they would be capable of producing very different and much more sublime things!
Men have wantonly cut themselves off from the greatness which is born only of a free spirit, and besides childish imitations they can therefore produce nothing but machines, constructions, and technical achievements in general. All earth-bound, on a lowly plane, hollow and lifeless, just like themselves!
These are the fruits which man, as a spiritual being, can now compare with the activity of the elemental beings! This is how he has fulfilled the spiritual task in the Subsequent Creation given to him for that purpose!
How do they expect to pass when the reckoning comes? Is it any wonder if the sublime Paradise must remain closed to people with such base propensities? And can one be surprised if now in the end the elementals, in reaction, will completely destroy the work so wrongly led by the human spirit?
And when now, owing to the lack of ability you showed, everything will collapse upon you, then cover your face and acknowledge with shame the terrible guilt with which you have burdened yourselves! Do not again try to accuse your Creator of it, or to call Him cruel and unjust!
You who are seeking, however, examine yourselves seriously and unsparingly, and then try to readjust your whole thinking and intuitive perception, indeed your whole being, upon a spiritual foundation, which will no longer rock like the intellectual and thus very limited foundation of the past!" Abd-ru-shin, "IN THE LIGHT OF TRUTH: THE GRAIL MESSAGE", chapter "Warfare in Nature."
It is our ignorance of the fundamental Laws of this Creation that has resulted in our failure to apply the spiritual power, with which we have been endowed, beneficially.
In many of his films, Herzog tries to make sense of a senseless universe. And there is no question that he suffers greatly when he can find no answers.
The forms his suffering had taken have not always been in keeping with higher spiritual aims. He has a taste for the bizarre and darker aspects of human life, and yet most of the time there is something beneficial (either literally or metaphorically) that one can derive from nearly all his work - if one knows what to look for.
Through the exertion of his own amazing will power, Werner Herzog has brought us many astonishing film experiences - with some near-masterpieces sprinkled along the way. In Les Blank's documentary Burden of Dreams on the making of Fitzcarraldo, we witness first-hand Herzog's rare ability to bridge the gap between volition and deed. True, he has a reputation as being obsessed, manipulative and ego-maniacal (see also the film My Best Fiend), but we have always been impressed by his strong masculine energy, as well as his sheer naturalness as a person. He is one of the select few, who has learned to conquer matter and place it under his will. In this regard, Herzog is without question a German filmmaker. And because of the birthright he shares with other notable German filmmakers of his generation (Wim Wenders, Hans-Jurgen Syberberg, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Straub and Huillet, Volker Schlöndorff, Margarita von Trotta, Alexander Kluge), he is a seeker of Truth - hence, more gifted than others and, consequently, more responsible for the way his films turn out (i.e. what they communicate to the rest of humanity.) When he imposes his will on others in order to achieve a high spiritual goal, then he has used his gifts properly and will receive all benefits due him under the Laws of Creation. If, however, he uses his will to the spiritual detriment of others (whether he realizes it or not), such as the hypnotizing of the entire cast of his film Heart of Glass (1976), he is then also subject to the automatic effects of the Laws of Creation. Hypnotism for any reason, even for high artistic goals, is considered to be a crime against the spirit under the Laws of this Creation.
In his great compassion for fellow sufferers in the seemingly cold and calamitous environment of this world, it was only natural that Herzog was drawn to another tormented soul in Timothy Treadwell. From the very beginning of the film, Herzog presents Treadwell in unflinching light. Treadwell, who on most occasions simply sets his video camera up on a tripod to film himself in monologue sequences or uses a free camera to film his animal "friends", begins the film by saying, "If I show weakness, I'm dead. They will take me out, they will decapitate me, they will chop me up into bits and pieces -- I'm dead. So far, I persevere. I persevere."
Treadwell is a fascinating Herzogian character: a severely flawed man, who, through the sheer force of his will, managed to stay alive for thirteen summers amongst wild bears in Alaska's Katmai National Park and Reserve. The denouement of Treadwell's past makes this feat seem even more implausible. Treadwell was the classic prototype of a loser. In wild, impetuous self-filmed confessionals, Treadwell rambles on about his battle with alcoholism and his failure with women. He also cultivated a fake Australian accent to support his story that he was from Down Under and not an American. He is also an unrepentant sentimentalist, who treats wild bears as if they were his own kin. And yet, out in the Alaskan wilderness, he discovered a calling of sorts to defend these peaceable creatures from the poacher's gun. He later founded an organization and went on television to support this cause. Out of this activity he developed a charisma and self-confidence that he had been previously lacking. He also had an amazing ten-year relationship with a family of foxes, which were perfectly willing to respond in kind to his emotional intentions. Finally, there is a memorable scene where he records himself growing angry with God because a lack of rainfall has dried up the streams, resulting in no salmon for his starving bears. He confronts God and demands that He make it rain. And, sure enough, it begins to rain and rain and rain for weeks on end - until Treadwell's tent almost completely collapses in on him.
Nevertheless, it is Treadwell's need to be physically close to these bears that reveals his greatest flaw, which inevitably leads to his (and his girlfriend's) earthly demise. For hundreds of years, the Native American Indians treated these same bears with absolute respect by giving them their space and leaving them alone. It is actually Treadwell's behavior they consider to be disrespectful. In this case, the Native American intuition is absolutely the right one. Once again we call upon Abd-ru-shin to provide us with the proper perspective from On High: