Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

Grizzly Man

Grizzly Man is a 2005 American documentary film by acclaimed German director, Werner Herzog. The film accounts the life (an eventual death) of bear enthusiast, Timothy Treadwell at Katmai National Park, Alaska. The park has the largest coastal grizzlies in the world, as the bears gorge on mollusks and spawning salmon. The amazing video footage that Treadwell shot, is a window into the grim reality of nature — as one of the bears he loved and protected tragically took his life.

[We’ll use the terms Grizzly and Brown Bear interchangeably. They’re essentially the same –except for their location and diet. Grizzlies are inland, foraging on anything they can eat. Browns are coastal, and much larger from their abundant marine diet.]

“Grizzly Man” is pieced together with Treadwell’s own remarkable footage of the Alaskan brown bears, and interviews with the quirky people who knew him. Werner Herzog is great, I love his work — but his narration and thick German accent are really weird in the backdrop of Alaska; the great American frontier. Treadwell himself, was also a very strange character. These two constants give the film a subversive comedic element. At times, it’s like watching a mockumentary — like an episode of The Office.

Timothy “Treadwell” (Timothy Dexter) was not an expert on bears — much less Alaskan grizzlies. By all accounts he was just a random guy. The film examines Treadwell’s motivations to live among a sleuth of wild grizzly bears on an Alaskan reserve. He believed that he was uniquely connected to these bears, and that he had bridged some type of gap between human and beast.

I have family in Alaska, I’ve been there several times, and I can emphatically say that Timothy Treadwell was crazy, and deluded. I’ve seen grizzlies first hand. Even the small ones are 450lbs. They’re majestic and terrifying creatures. They can run as fast as a dog, and scale trees to the top.

During a fishing trip on the upper Kenai – I recall seeing a rounded pathway through woods as we drifted down the river. It looked like someone used a tunneling machine to bore down saplings, small trees, and brush. An Alaskan gentleman in our fishing party explained that a grizzly probably caught a scent — and took off through the brush, knocking everything down in it’s way.

The most remarkable thing about this Treadwell story is that he lasted 13 years! It’s just pure luck, that the grizzlies he lived with, were more interested in their abundant natural food.

The documentary received widespread acclaim from critics and is now considered to be among the best films of the 2000s and of the 21st century.

The film’s soundtrack is by British singer-songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson. As a guitarist, the soundtrack jumped out at me immediately. The guitar playing is phenomenal, and the music perfectly mirrors the Alaskan expanse. Most of the DVD’s special features are dedicated to the recording of the music. You can find all of those performances on YouTube. Here’s Glencoe.

You might also like to play…

Mark Knopfler: Altamira | fingerstyle guitar + TAB

Eric Clapton: Theme from a Movie That Never Happened + TAB

How to play Glencoe | fingerstyle guitar

The guitar tab for Glencoe is beautifully written across 2 pages. I recommend this piece for intermediate guitar players and up. It sounds great on acoustic too! Enjoy, the guitar tab is available below:

**Grizzly Man: Glencoe (Richard Thompson) | fingerstyle guitar

This piece is played in standard tuning.