If March Of The Penguins was the cuddly side of natural history, Grizzly Man is all teeth and claws - and that's just the conservationists. For 13 years, bear fan Timothy Treadwell spent the summer camping with grizzlies in the Alaskan wilderness until with tragic inevitability he and his girlfriend were slaughtered in a ferocious bear attack. German auteur Werner Herzog pieces together the remarkable footage Treadwell left behind into a superb portrait of a fractured obsessive living literally on the edge.
David Attenborough he certainly wasn't. Flouting park regulations to get within touching distance of the bears, Treadwell was a controversial figure who many claimed actually endangered the bears he swore to protect. As he delves deeper into Treadwell's past, Herzog becomes convinced that the failed actor and former alcoholic never comprehended the true reality of nature; despite his slightly unhinged waffle about mastering the bears, Treadwell gave them names such as Mr Chocolate and scolded them like naughty children. As one interviewee notes, he acted like he was "working with people in bear costumes".
The loner on the outskirts of civilisation, both physically and mentally, is classic Herzog material and, although he doesn't always have sympathy for his subject, Treadwell is never portrayed as anything less than a unique and fascinating individual. A gut-wrenching scene when Herzog listens to the audio recording of the couple's death (with headphones on, mercifully) demonstrates the astonishing complexity not only of the subject but also of the filmmaker, and Treadwell will haunt the nether reaches of your mind long after the credits have rolled.