Saturday, June 22, 2013

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

Beginning in the spring (which resembles most people's winter) we are shown a year in the life of several residents of the remote village of Bakhta deep in heart of Siberia. Little affected by the advancements of the last 100 years and still using many prehistoric methods for their craft, we watch how a trapper, boat builder, and other locals ply their trade. Happy People began as an extended documentary made by Russian Dmitry Vasyukov for Euro television which caught the eye of Werner Herzog who decided to collaborate with the directed, reediting it and adding his own narration on a much shorter version. The result is compelling, featuring beautiful and some even seemingly impossible footage, and some unforgettable moments also: a trapper telling how the Russian government left him and a friend out in the wilderness, never returning to restock their supplies, with his partner soon giving up the ship also. Another story of a bear mauling his dog is just as harrowing. His daylong trip into town to celebrate New Year's with his pup running beside his sled is extraordinary and even the day to day rigmarole captured is fascinating in its own way.

note: the DVD contains two features of interest, one which explains how Herzog became involved with the film and a second which makes an argument for his director's credit by showing a clip from the original series, the shooting of which he had no involvement with whatsoever.