Can another die your death? Hearing this in a discussion on Heidegger between a couple friends got me thinking about the moment in Grizzly Man in which Herzogger appears on camera to tell Treadwell’s ex girlfriend not to ever listen to the tape of his dying–a complaint I noted in an earlier post on Grizzly Man (below).
There’s another reading of the moment in which he appears on camera, snuff tape in hand… Herzog’s own trajectory as a film-maker has involved nature, as awe, as the source of the perfect image, and man, as small and feeble, grandiose at times, but in relation to nature as an unholy son… To an extent Treadwell was Herzog, finding in nature a community and relation that made more sense to him than did ordinary society. Faced with the tape of Treadwell’s death, Herzog must appear in this film of another so that his own death is not taken by the other. Herzog’s own death wish screams underneath his works as a film-maker; it must be deferred if it is to drive his works. Herzog appears because Treadwell’s actual death threatens to subsume and complete his own death (Herzog’s). The connection between Herzog and Treadwell clearly was a manifestation of Herzog’s own fascination with nature and death. Can somebody else die your death for you? No. But if death poses a question, and it is this question that motivates your work, then perhaps the death of somebody with whom you identify might threaten to answer the question for you. What is threatened then is question; what would whither would be the drive to address it properly; what would die would be the series of one’s own life as it unfolds towards death.