I LOVED this DVD Documentary which takes the viewer to spend a year in a remote Siberian Taiga community of 300 hardy souls and where many of the menfolk from the village featured exist by hunting and trapping. Something about this film, apart from the remoteness of location, reminded me of Kurosawa's DERSU UZALA, a favourite film of mine and one not easily forgotten. Whereas "Dersu" was a feature film based on the true story of a Russian Surveyor and his interaction with an old hunter, HAPPY PEOPLE relies on it's purely documentary style and as with many of his feature films and other documentary work Werner Herzog and his compatriots must have suffered for their art in this production.
We are indeed fortunate to have film makers of this calibre and talent and who can transport us to regions most of us neither have the skills to survive in or would otherwise never visit being too dangerous or uncomfortable. This is -50C territory where one false slip or misjudgement can mean a cold and solitary death.
At one stage the trapper arrives at his overnight cabin after a long day on the trap line to find a tree down across the roof. He has no other alternative than to clear the tree with his axe and then fix his woodstove chimney and light a fire. Without that, the prospect of a cold night with poor shelter looms. However, no drama is made of this and similar events, the practical self reliance of those villagers featured leaves you in awe of what they can achieve with little technology other than old tried and tested skills. Yet they are happy, amazingly so it seems, with so little and in such precarious circumstances. One of my favourite scenes is of the village against a backdrop of the river with "ice out" in progress....glitteringly brilliant!! The cover of the DVD says "Mesmerising" and while not disagreeing with that statement, I would say "Enthralling" better describes this film. It's a "must see" and will surely become a classic!