Happy People: A Year in the Taiga: Siberian Men Love Dogs More Than Women
In this documentary, the great German director Werner Herzog takes us to a village in the subarctic Siberian taiga. The village has 300 souls who are sustained by hunting. The hunters are stoic and resourceful, and spend a good amount of time alone in the woods trapping little animals, netting big fish, and shooting strange birds out of the sky. These men show emotional warmth not when speaking about their children or their wives or their country or their youth, but about their dogs. Life for them is, above all, a search for the right dog, the dog that will obey commands, assist in a hunt, and be ready to sacrifice its life for its master.
Herzog narrates the documentary in a way that one might mistake for a parody of Herzog. He repeatedly states the obvious (the river is melting because it is summer, notice how the hunter does not feed his dog much food, and so on) and is moved only by the rugged/rustic stupidity of the men, their constant struggles with the forces of nature, and their indifference to beauty. These men, Herzog believes, are happy because they have no illusions. When a flashy politician visits their village by boat to ask for votes, the hunters yawn and walk away. Politics and its promises mean nothing to them. What is important is making traps, cutting down trees, and raising dogs. Later in the film, one hunter defends his way of life by saying that farmers are more dishonest than hunters. Farmers keep their animals for years and then kill them. Animals in the woods, on the other hand, have no such illusions about hunters. When a hunter enters the woods, the animal knows the hunter is up to no good and runs for safety.