Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Legend of Bigfoot

Obsession. It’s a force of immense power that has guided men to greatness, and driven them to madness. Some strive for wealth, others pine for love. Many become devoted to art, music, and literature. And then there are people like professional animal tracker Ivan Marx, who spent his life looking for something else, something thought unattainable. He wanted Bigfoot.

Marx’s long struggle to prove the existence of the legendary Sasquatch is documented in the obscure 1976 film The Legend of Bigfoot, which can be watched on Youtube. It’s a curio of a movie, like something found off the last exit of a desert highway. Watching it feels like a dream, as if this movie can’t possibly exist and it’s all the result of some weird delirium, and yet there it is.

Not much is known about the film. It was put together from footage shot by Ivan Marx himself by director-for-hire Harry Stuart Winer, whose other credits include several episodes of Veronica Mars and Dawson’s Creek.

As Marx begins the narration which encompasses the entire movie, he tells the audience that the film chronicles the past ten years of his life, which has been spent tirelessly globetrotting in an attempt to document incontrovertible proof of Bigfoot’s existence. Ten years. A decade. Marx’s journey is fueled by an unnatural mania. It’s the perfect mixture of obsession and insanity that has the makings of a Werner Herzog protagonist.

It becomes clear that this is a man who is not only attempting to prove something to the world, but is trying to prove something to himself. He often expresses self-doubt, even questioning his own sanity at times. He will become energetic over what is most certainly undeniable footage of Bigfoot, only for it to be revealed as a bear. When discussing the experts who claim there’s no sufficient evidence, he becomes bitter, speaking with venom. 

Eventually he comes to the conclusion that Bigfoot must be a migratory animal. Following the path, he is led to Alaska, where natives tell him bizarre stories about the creature, such as the time a hunter killed a Sasquatch only to have its spirit come back to bring its wrath upon the people. Rivers of blood flowed from the sky turning the snow red and the “battle of a thousand warriors” was fought.

At times Marx seems to lose his direction. Much of the footage is of various wildlife. There’s a minutes long sequence of a squirrel attempting to pull another dead squirrel out of a road, edited so that it appears that other forest animals are watching. Marx also has a way of trailing off into philosophical rambles on nature, the frontier, and life – but somehow always managing to connect it back to Bigfoot. More than once does a deep discussion of his own life suddenly leap into confirming the existence of Sasquatch.

It’s almost impossible to judge The Legend of Bigfoot on the merits of its filmmaking because the clumsiness of the production feels entwined with its subject. It’s a personal journey, a window into the mind and emotions of a man who has devoted his life to Bigfoot. When we finally see the beast on camera it’s ethereal, even dreamlike. It’s as if I have been fully absorbed, in as much awe as Marx. It doesn't matter that it's fake, because with the entirety of his being Ivan Marx believes it is real. To him the footage is the evidence he needs to prove the experts wrong. We don't know if he just got so fed up with being called crazy that he staged the scenes himself or if he is being duped by somebody else. It's kind of beyond the point. What this film does is open you up to the world of a strange and dedicated man. By the end, despite all scientific evidence, despite his dumbfounding jumps in logic, you want to believe with him. And it’s beautiful, truly beautiful.