Amherst Cinema (Amherst, MA): Grizzly Man*

National Evening of Science on Screen
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1hr 43mins // directed by:Werner Herzog

Amherst Cinema (Amherst, MA) will present a screening of Grizzly Man, introduced by Dr. Richard Halgin. Please click here for event details.

Director Werner Herzog chronicles the life and death of grizzly bear activist Timothy Treadwell, who with his girlfriend was killed by grizzlies in October 2003 while living among the bears in Alaska. Before the film, Dr. Richard Halgin, clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at UMass Amherst, explores the question: Was Treadwell a nature lover, an eccentric narcissist, or a person with an unusual psychiatric disorder? 

About the Film

For 13 summers Timothy Treadwell spent his days in Alaska communing with grizzly bears and videotaping his life in their habitat until he ultimately was ravaged by the animals he presumably knew so well.  With brilliant editing and narration, renowned director Werner Herzog chronicles the life and death of Treadwell, while provoking questions about Treadwell’s motivations and mental health. 

Opinions about Treadwell’s adventures in Alaska span a wide range.  Some view him as a man with a deep affection for the bears, and a commitment to educating the world in order to protect these beautiful creatures in what Treadwell referred to as “The Grizzly Sanctuary.”  In the early years of his adventures, he published a book about his experiences and made frequent public appearances in classrooms and on television as an environmental activist.

Critics of Treadwell, however, view him as a narcissist rather than a nature lover.  With his various media appearances Treadwell developed considerable notoriety, and seemed to thrive on the attention he received.  He spoke in dramatic ways about his life among the bears, and he seemed to relish every question, challenge, and provocation.  As he pranced among the bears, he carried himself with undue confidence and a naïve sense of mastery.  Was it about the grizzlies or about Treadwell?

Still farther along the spectrum of human behavior is the hypothesis that Treadwell may have had an unusual psychiatric disorder in which a person has the delusion that he or she has been transformed into a non-human animal.  Treadwell seemed to go well beyond the typical ideology of animal protectors.  He developed an identification with the bears that was so strong that he spoke in ways to suggest that he was one of them.

About the Speaker

Dr. Richard Halgin is a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he has taught more than 20,000 undergraduates and has mentored 30 doctoral advisees in the Clinical Psychology program.  He has been recognized with several prestigious teaching awards at UMass and nationally, and has published several editions of three textbooks about psychological disorders as well as 60 articles and chapters.  As a licensed and Board certified clinical psychologist, he remains clinically active as a provider of psychotherapy and a supervisor of doctoral trainees.

* = Past recipient of the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize (given annually to outstanding feature films focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer or mathematician as a major character).