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Grizzly Man by Werner Herzog: an Overview

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Visual Analysis

Werner Herzog’s documentary film Grizzly Man is about a man named Timothy Treadwell and his journey to eventually becoming a man who is determined to protect the wild grizzly bears in Alaska. I believe that Herzog’s argument in this documentary is that Treadwell had a goal in his life and genuinely loved what he did. Although there are many contrasting perspectives on what Treadwell did with his life throughout the film, Herzog makes it clear that Treadwell did not die in vain and moreover had a meaningful death. The film provides a holistic view on Treadwell’s life and serves as a tribute to the work that he accomplished during his short life. Herzog uses pathos in the film to successfully persuade the audience that Treadwell was genuinely happy being in solitude with the bears; although some individuals doubted the work he was doing. By using unity, texture, and sequence as visual elements in the film, the director further develops his argument. Herzog shows unity by portraying the relationships between Treadwell and his loved ones while also incorporating several opposing opinions from the people who were well affiliated with him (Herzog). By utilizing the rhetorical element pathos, Herzog effectively demonstrates Treadwell’s passion for working with the bears and provides a strong argument acknowledging the work that he had accomplished. The visual elements unity, texture, and sequence play a powerful role in Herzog’s film because they clearly establish Treadwell’s motives.

Herzog effectively uses unity to illustrate Treadwell’s passion for the work that he did. Herzog incorporates several different interview clips to show the different aspects people around Treadwell had. Some of the individuals who were well affiliated with him disagreed with what he was doing until the end. However, there were a select few who appreciated Treadwell for what he achieved during his short life. Jewel, Treadwell’s close alliance states in the interview with Herzog that Treadwell accomplished a lot by being involved in the organization called the Grizzly People (Herzog). By being exposed to the different perspectives, the audience gets a well-rounded idea of Treadwell’s life and immediately feels a connection to the work that Treadwell had done. Jewel tells the audience that she supported what Treadwell had accomplished whole-heartedly and thoroughly explained the ambitions he had. She is very accepting of Treadwell and Herzog utilizes multiple clips from her interview in order to strengthen his argument (Herzog). Herzog effectively utilizes unity in order to create a sense of wholeness throughout his film. He uses raw clips from Treadwell’s account with the bears and also uses voice layovers in order to tie in the clips and make it relevant to the film itself (Herzog). Herzog never loses focus on his argument; making sure that Treadwell’s work is known to the general public and uses the documentary as a tribute for his short life. Unity is a major visual element utilized in Herzog’s film. He does not solely focus on using unity but also incorporates texture from Treadwell’s clips during his stay in Alaska.

Texture is another major visual element that is incorporated into this film by showing Treadwell’s raw clips during his stay with the bears (Herzog). The audience gets a real experience on a personal-level with the accounts that Treadwell had during his stay in Alaska. Being able to see the animals that Treadwell loved and worked with on a daily basis provides a real-life view on how much he enjoyed what he was doing. For example, there is one clip where Treadwell is petting a wild fox that he befriended (Herzog). The audience gets a clear visual on how close the wild animal is and it shows that the fox is at complete ease and enjoys his company. Herzog includes Treadwell’s parent’s perspective into his documentary as well. Treadwell’s parents speak on how he had a drinking problem and resorted to working with the bears as a form of therapy. They show the audience a teddy bear that Treadwell held dear growing up (Herzog). When the audience is able to experience the accounts that he had during his short life, there is an emotional connection formed. Therefore, texture is a strong visual element that plays a major role in this documentary film. Not only is texture a major part that plays in the film as a visual element, sequence is also used in an effective way.

Sequence is defined as the segments of a film narrative that are edited together and unified by a common setting, time, event or story-line (“Visual and Film Vocabulary”). Herzog uses sequence throughout his entire film in order to show the unification between Treadwell’s personal films and Herzog’s interviews with his acquaintances around him. By basing his film around the same event, his argument is effective and is clear throughout the entire documentary. Herzog uses a combination of narratives, interviews, and raw footage to show the relation between Treadwell and the work that he had done (Herzog). Herzog also utilizes a similar quality camera in order to tie in the two portions of his film together. Both Treadwell’s low quality camera and Herzog’s camera quality helps the flow of the film and sets an overall mood for the audience. Herzog’s usage of his narratives were smooth and tied in well with the atmosphere that Treadwell would have otherwise intended to set. Another major element that Herzog utilizes to further his argument is pathos. Herzog grabs the audience’s attention by illustrating the many different aspects of Treadwell’s life. The audience feels an emotional connection to Treadwell because of the different perspectives that Herzog displays throughout his documentary. Herzog interviews Treadwell’s parents who walk the audience through his childhood and the specific accounts that he had growing up. For example, Treadwell had always had a strong emotional connection to animals in general (Herzog). Herzog’s argument is made clear because of his effective use of pathos. The audience is able to clearly understand Treadwell’s motives and therefore this film documentary serves as a tribute to his work.

Timothy Treadwell did not decease in vain. He was truly doing the work that he had dreamed about doing for his whole life. In this film documentary, Herzog makes it clear that Treadwell was genuinely happy and would have not wanted to pass away in a different way. The director uses this film as a tribute to Treadwell and the things he had done in his life. By utilizing these different visual elements, Herzog engages the audience and forms an appreciation for the things that Treadwell had accomplished in his short life. Although many people disagreed with the things that Treadwell was doing, the director makes it clear that he was appreciated and the work he did was not useless (Herzog). The element pathos is used strongly to illustrate the enjoyment Treadwell felt during his stay in Alaska. These visual and rhetorical elements clearly display Treadwell’s passion for the bears and Herzog effectively persuades the audience to believe in his argument; Treadwell was the happiest he could ever be.

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Grizzly Man by Werner Herzog: An Overview. (2019, April 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
“Grizzly Man by Werner Herzog: An Overview.” GradesFixer, 10 Apr. 2019,
Grizzly Man by Werner Herzog: An Overview. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 Jan. 2022].
Grizzly Man by Werner Herzog: An Overview [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Apr 10 [cited 2022 Jan 26]. Available from:
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