Bear Images: Human Performativity and Animal Touch in Grizzly Man
In Grizzly Man (2005) Werner Herzog edits and presents footage shot by Timothy Dexter while in the company of grizzly bears. As the film states, Grizzly Man centres on the human story that unfolds in Treadwell’s videos, especially in the context of the fact that he was killed by one of his beloved animals. The bears are of interest to Herzog only insofar as they symbolise an inscrutable and indifferent nature – i.e. those aspects of nature that in Herzog’s view Treadwell misconstrued finally leading to his demise. Against this explicit framing of the bears by Herzog, this essay argues that Grizzly Man opens up a visual space for these animals in which they come to touch not only Treadwell, but also this film’s spectators. Faced with the excessive performances Treadwell enacts for his own cameras, the spectator of Grizzly Man is left wondering about the authenticity or ‘naturalness’ of the human, and is compelled to ask about the gaze humans cast on animals in general, and most specifically on the bears that share the cinematic frame with Treadwell.
Editor: Lawrence, Michael; McMahon, Laura
Publisher: Palsgrave BFI
Rights Statement: Editors and Authors
Research Type: Chapter in Book
Animal Life and the Moving Image is the first collection of essays to offer a sustained focus on the relations between screen cultures and non-human animals. The volume brings together some of the most important and influential writers working on the non-human animal's significance for cultures and theories of the moving image. It offers innovative analyses of the representation of animals across a wide range of documentary, fiction, mainstream and avant-garde practices, from early cinema to contemporary user-generated media. Individual chapters consider King Kong, The Birds, The Misfits, The Cove, Grizzly Man and Microcosmos, the work of Sergei Eisenstein, Robert Bresson, Malcolm Le Grice, Peter Greenaway, Carolee Schneemann and Isabella Rossellini, and YouTube stars Christian the lion and Maru the cat.