Is Werner Herzog a libertarian?
Even by the standards of Werner Herzog’s peculiar and peripatetic career — which stretches from the adventurous works of New German Cinema in the 1970s through a remarkable series of documentaries to acting roles in “The Simpsons” and “Jack Reacher” — “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga” is an odd production. For one thing, Herzog didn’t “make” the film, in the normal sense of that word, although what you’ll see on the screen is very much infused with his sensibility. A contradiction? You bet.
None of the remarkable footage of an isolated Siberian village or the hunters who make their living in the almost impenetrable wilderness that surrounds it was actually shot or directed by Herzog, who has likely never been within several thousand miles of the place. Through a friend in Los Angeles, he came upon four hour-long movies about a group of men who keep the Siberian traditions of hunting and trapping alive in one of the remotest regions of the planet, almost completely cut off from modern society and technology. He contacted Dmitry Vasyukov, the Russian filmmaker who had indeed spent a year in the Taiga – the dense and literally trackless forest of the Siberian interior – and convinced him to allow Herzog to construct a 90-minute “international version,” with a new musical score and English voiceover narration in Herzog’s inimitable Teutonic-philosopher mode.