Donate Now to Support KDHX

Listen Live
Friday, 08 March 2013 11:00

'Happy People: A Year in the Taiga' reveals a way of life in Siberia

'Happy People: A Year in the Taiga' reveals a way of life in Siberia musicboxfilms.com
Written by Martha K. Baker
Rate this item
(0 votes)

About this Media...

  • Director: Werner Herzog and Dmitry Vasyukov
  • Dates: Opened March 8, 2013

"Happy People: A Year in the Taiga" might seem terribly exotic, even a bit off-putting in its foreignness, but it is very seductive.

That quality is more attributable to the subjects than to the documentarians, but they are the ones who landed us in this strange world of snow and traps and living history. Werner Herzog, who created the 3-D documentary of the Chauvet cave, crafted "Happy People" from the documentary series on television by the Russian Dmitry Vasyukov.

The Taiga, a subarctic forest, sprawls all over Siberia. The film's subtitle refers to a year in this cold place, thus the film about a village of 300 cold souls is divided into the four seasons. Technically, however, summer and spring are so short that winter is the defining season. Spring, still white with snow, includes two holidays: May 1 is Labor Day and May 9 is Victory Day from World War II. Herzog, in one of his annoying voice-overs, observes that a veteran being interviewed is so overwhelmed by memories of war that he can no longer speak -- as if we cannot see he's crying.

Summer, for all its greenness, is a time of biting mosquitos. Summer holds days, each with 20 hours of sunshine, days for harvesting produce to can for the winter. Fall is a time to sing a paean to the sharp ax, for it's a time to cut wood and stack it several stories high.

Winter, when the temperature ices down to 50 degrees below zero, is the time for trappers to go off alone to trap. They have prepared and repaired their woodland huts, sharpened their knives, built their traps and skis, hoisted the dried food into trees away from mice, and cut logs with wedges and clubs. The trappers describe their work as repetitions of their grandfathers' ways. They say that greed is the trapper's worst enemy and that their dogs are the most important members of the party: one trapper never lets his dog inside because that's what softies do; another trapper rides his snowmobile home in January for Christmas but his dog runs the entire way, miles and hours of running to get home.

Herzog and Vasyukov make beautiful use of helicoptered shots with wide snowscapes. Their underwater shots are lovely. They move close in to an old woman's turtle face. They film the night runs on snowmobiles, but neither filmmaker explains where the fuel for all those snowmobile rides is stored or at what cost. Still, there are more examples of old world economy than of modern extravagances. "Happy People: A Year in the Taiga" is exotic and educational, a marvel of modern story-telling about ancient ways -- if you can tolerate Werner Herzog's intrusions.

Sponsor Message

Become a Sponsor

Find KDHX Online

KDHX on Instagram
KDHX on YouTube
KDHX on SoundCloud
KDHX on Facebook
KDHX on Twitter
KDHX on flickr

Local Artist Spotlight


Lida Una

Sun October 5

Brian Owens

Mon September 29
Brian Owens is an American soul singer and songwriter from St. Louis. His new album Preach combines grooves, with soul touching lyrics.. Preach is a well produced album that speaks to the modern times,…

KDHX Recommends

October
Thursday
23

Discovery Series: Crossroads in the Blues

KDHX presents "Crossroads in the Blues" as part of the Discovery Series. Series passports can be bought online. Ron Edwards of KDHX's "Nothin' But the Blues" provides a guide through pivotal moments in...


October
Saturday
25

KDHX Reggae Soundclash

St. Louis area DJs and sound systems meet at the Stage at KDHX for a reggae soundclash. The event pits Dub Prophecy vs. Massive Hi Fi in a “friendly clash” – alternating sets of the toughest sounds and the best of...


November
Thursday
06

Discovery Series: All The News That's Fit To Sing: The State of Protest Music in...

KDHX presents "All The News That's Fit To Sing: The State of Protest Music in 1968" as part of the Discovery Series. Series passports can be bought online. This event looks at the music and activism of 1968, through...


Get Answers!

If you have questions or need to contact KDHX, visit our answers portal at answers.kdhx.org.

Online Users

6 users and 13796 guests online
Sign in with Facebook

SYSTEM: S5 Box

Login/My Account

Sign in with Facebook