Thursday, February 28, 2013

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

If you were reading this at the very moment I posted it, you would have roughly three hours before its last show in the Boston area. Sorry, all; I honestly thought I was going to get through the SF/38 stuff faster. Worth the trip to Kendall Square if you are reading it on Thursday, 28 February, before 9pm or so, though.

I had initially played with the idea of seeing it after the sci-fi marathon, but let's be honest - even though pretty much any movie would have put me out that afternoon, a leisurely documentary narrated by Werner Herzog would have done the job immediately. Sometimes he sounds creepy, but this would have been a soothing bedtime story from Uncle Werner.

Not much else to say that's not in the review, although I kind of wish I'd snuck a photograph of one of the credit screens, as I'm not sure how often you'll ever see Werner Herzog and Timur Bekmambetov credited two lines apart (both are executive producers)?

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2013 in Landmark Kendall Square #8 (first-run, 2K digital)

Werner Herzog is the name that will (and should) draw people to Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, although it's likely that the other credited director, Dmitry Vasyukov, actually spent more time in Siberia gathering footage. However the labor is divided, the documentary still has Herzog's voice - both literally and in terms of being an exploration of a far-off place for the curious.

That far-off place is the village of Bakhta, Russia, situated on the Yenisei River in the middle of the Siberian taiga (a relatively barren, mostly coniferous forest), itself larger than the United States and frozen for most of the year. It is so remote that it can only be reached by helicopter or boat (and the latter only during the summer), and is primarily supported by fur-trapping. Though the actual trapping mainly takes place during the winter, the preparation is a year-round process.

Our main guide is Gennady, who has been working his territory of over a hundred square kilometers since 1970 and favors the traditional koolyomka, a deadfall trap that has the advantage of not leaving bloodstains on a sable's pelt. He is in many ways the ideal subject for the filmmakers, with a weathered face and a crusty pragmatism that goes well beyond no-nonsense, although not so far as hostility to the filmmakers or audience. He's a good teacher, and the personality that comes out when the camera crew offers him an unusual respite from his winter solitude both makes him more human and shows him as well-suited to this life.

Full review on eFilmCritic.

No comments: