Archive for March, 2012

Grizzly Man (2005)

March 6, 2012


“Grizzly Man” is a documentary directed by Werner Herzog that chronicles the last years of a man whose life is driven by a dangerous obsession. Timothy Treadwell is the quintessential Herzog character. His life was directed by an obsessive purpose that suppressed a darker side within. His work only made sense in his own universe but most people would call him a maniac if not an idiot. He was only alive in the field doing his work that would eventually kill him. He is the rather unlucky real life version of Klaus Kinski’s character in “Fitzcarraldo“.

Treadwell was the self-proclaimed guardian of the grizzly bears. He was the co-founder of the Grizzly People with his ex-girlfriend Jewel Palovak, which concerned with the treatment of the grizzly bears. Every summer he launched an expedition to the Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska. He camped there close to the bears as their “guardian” until they went into hibernation. During his last expedition, he brought along his girlfriend Amie Huguenard. They were attacked by a seemingly hungry and unfriendly bear which never met Timothy, killed and partially eaten.

After all, it looks like the bears do not really need his protection. They are fairly safe, except some occasional disturbance from the hikers. They live in their own concealed world, and indifferent to everything else. One of the interviewees suggested that the bears found him harmless because they thought he was retarded or something, which was why he went safe until the fateful event. We can assume Timothy was up for it, how about his girlfriend? She was obviously frightened by bears, she went anyway because she loved the man.

This is a rare documentary in which the director does not approve the actions of the protagonist. Timothy’s worldview is that of the disneyland – bears are harmless and his savior, and he is only normal among them, he is a failure from the human world. That casts a strong contrast to Herzog’s cold and logical view of the universe, which is full of cruelty and indifference, survival is the only rule. Timothy’s lifelong obsession, however, must have stirred some sort of connection to Herzog, for he is himself famous for his intense obsession – he pulled a large ship up to a mountain top somewhere in Amazon for the film “Fitzcarraldo”, with no trick photography, he really did hire a crew of aboriginals to do this stunt. In the very same film, he reportedly held a gun to Klaus Kinski so he wouldn’t leave the set. The incident is well documented in “My Best Fiend“.

There is another film called “Into the Wild” directed by Sean Penn that deals with a similar topic – a young man disdains civilization that he runs into the wild, lives there for a short while until his eventual death from food poisoning. What makes “Grizzly Man” distinctive is that the director strips off the romanticism that often associates to the theme, and uses this to reflect his very own philosophy about man’s place in the universe.

Grizzly Man” is directed by Werner Herzog“, starring Timothy Treadwell who played himself.


We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

March 5, 2012


There is a profound sadness throughout “We Need to Talk About Kevin”. The plot is minimal, and to explain that is irrelevant because the film is constructed in a fragmented way that focuses on the subjective psychological reality instead of the logical factual reality. But to boil it down, the film is essentially about the struggle between Eva (Tilda Swinton) and her son Kevin (Ezra Miller), who is seemingly born with an absolute hatred to his mother. Kevin seems to embody something we call the pure Evil. This all comes to a tragedy on the level of the Greek mythology and a resolution that is both chilling and intimate.

Tilda Swinton is the engine of the movie with her tour de force performance. She plays a woman escaping from responsibility all her life. Her reality slowly deteriorates, driving her to desperation and madness. The real surprise here is Ezra Miller playing Kevin, a truly evil kid. He is not the usual angry kid from high school. He is one evil bastard in the league of Hannibal Lecteur. Slowly, the story unfolds, and we get to know both sides of the story. You come to understand why Kevin embarks the mass killing and sympathize with him – that is if you have endured everything he has done prior to that.

Freud said that a man who has been his mother’s darling grows up with a triumphant feeling that associates with success. It doesn’t work with Eva and Kevin. Somewhere in-between is the father (John C. Reilly), who busies himself upbringing his family in a yuppy fashion. Somehow our world gives the family the means to function, blinding the necessity to right the wrong. Kevin is basically just born to the wrong family at the wrong time, leaving broken souls that seek vengeance and redemption.

Kevin is never being talked to beyond the day-to-day business throughout the entire movie. They need to talk to Kevin, not just about him.

We Need to Talk About Kevin” is an outstanding British gem directed by Lynne Ramsay, starring Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and the superb Ezra Millera.