Happy People: A Year In The Taiga DVD
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Directed by Dmitry Vasyukov
Produced in 2010
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - European Film
Herzog continues his fascination with those living on the extreme margins of modern society in this remarkable portrait of Siberian fur-trappers, and 'the enormity of solitude' they inhabit.
People existing in extreme conditions on the margins of modern life have long held a fascination for Herzog, and in Happy People, he turns his eye on those living in some of the most testing conditions anywhere on Earth, namely the hunters of the small village of Bakhtia, deep in the heart of Siberia.
As with Grizzly Man, Herzog lends his distinctive touch to someone else's film, condensing Russian director Dmitry Vasyukov's 4 hour TV documentary about fur trappers into an ode to the harsh beauty of wilderness life. And wilderness it is. A single hunter's area is colossal; one man, Gennady, works 1500km2 alone, setting 1,000 sable traps of an ancient design each winter trapping season, when 'the enormity of solitude' is his constant companion.
Narrated in Herzog's agreeably idiosyncratic fashion, Happy People takes us through spring, summer, autumn and winter, the seasons distinct and challenging, from bears and mosquitoes in summer to temperatures of -54°C in winter. Along the way, it offers a showcase for extreme survival skills – which is no offhand term here but deadly serious – such as the craft of turning a tree trunk into skis or a canoe, or preparing mosquito repellent from birch tar and fish oil. ('When you're busy, you don't really notice them that much' says Gennady, clouded in the all-pervasive whine of countless thousands as he builds a cabin unperturbed.)
Featuring amazing footage of the natural world, such as the spring thaw of the Yenisei river as it heads north to the Arctic Ocean, as well as absurdity without which no Herzog film would be complete – in this case a politician taking advantage of the river's thaw to canvass votes in outlying areas by singing to the indifferent villagers on the riverbank – Happy People is a welcome addition to the director's investigations of extreme living.
With breathtaking imagery and wonderfully evocative narration by Werner Herzog, Happy People follows a year in the lives of the indigenous people of the Siberian Taiga.
The film follows a hunter from the small village of Bakhtia through four complete seasons, most of which are filled with harsh weather and hostile conditions. With the only way to reach Bakhtia via helicopter or boat, the natives of the village are entirely self-sufficient and live in much the same way as their forefathers from centuries ago.
Featuring footage of the spectacular snow-scapes of Siberia, this documentary shines a light on the unique culture and timeless lifestyle of this remarkable people.
Publisher: Second Sight
Length: 90 mins
Cat No: 2NDVD3223
Format: DVD Colour