June 30, 2013

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

Dmitry Vasyukov & Werner Herzog, 2010

A beautiful film that examines a part of the world hardly explored. It's a magnetic film that really puts you in the middle of the remote Siberian village. It's a raw study of human survival and community in the harshest of climates. It's a village built on a patriarchal family structure, with the man of the house constantly having to go out into the vast forest to tap into his biologically-inherited hunter-gatherer abilities.

The inhabitants have a strict routine that they follow, mainly because their very survival depends on it. With the assistance of their loyal hunting dogs, they travel miles into the snow-covered Siberian landscape to set traps, clear traps, hunt game, and build tools and structures with the very trees that surround them. It's a very honest film, the protagonists don't sugar-coat anything about their life. They must kill animals for their food, and have no shame in doing so. At one point in the film one of the men even says that he feels more honest about killing his food - because he's the one with the blood on his hands. Although the town of 300 is completely removed from the world around them, they are very accommodating and appear to be very comfortable in front of the camera. They are true survivalists, most people wouldn't be able to endure the harsh winter climate or the isolation. They not only have to endure both, they have to endure long periods of both, for months on end. They build the cabins they sleep in, and craft the skis and canoes that they travel in. Herzog's narration adds a noticeable tone to the film, and you are THERE with the people of the Taiga. You are underwater when they drop their nets into the icy river, and you are with them as they traverse the narrow winter paths via snowmobile. It's a refreshing escape from the Western World, removed from technology. Removed from dependence of the superficial. Removed from the meaningless drama that finds its way into our daily lives. These people have REAL drama, like maybe not having a next meal. There are a lot of question marks for them when they wake up in the morning. Will there be anything waiting for them in their traps? Will one of their beloved dogs get attacked by bear? When they arrive at their outlying cabin in the forest, will it be intact? Every one of these variables can have a profound impact on their survival. It can certainly make parts of the American life feel trivial.

The film is VERY similar to the independently produced documentary "Heimo's Arctic Refuge" which is part of the "Far Out" series created by Vice. It follows a man named Heimo for a week while he participates in very similar activites around his secluded cabin in rural Alaska. That film can be streamed HERE

No comments:

Post a Comment