The majority of the film is shot in the harsh yet beautiful wilderness of Siberia. Kurosawa and his team have exploited this landscape to their full advantages. I don't think many could pull this off today.
The main character in the film is a native of the forests, who is essentially a Siberian Tarzan, of the Nanai people. Throughout the film, we see the relationship formed between a military commander ordered to map the area and the native of the forests.
It's a fascinating film that allows us to question the basis of our society, and to realise that, compared to a more primitive lifestyle, age takes its tole on us all. The film shows the growth of friendship and respect between the two men, and says that fundamentally we all strive for the same necessities in life. All this couldn't of been accomplished without the sublime character study by the main actor Maksim Munzuk, from a small acting career, who plays Dersu so authentically.
Directed by Kurosawa, each frame has been carefully crafted to form this is flawless epic of a film, that takes real skill and admiration to pull of from the filming location alone. The choice of scenery and it's execution is phenomenal, drawing comparison to other adventurous works, such as those by Werner Herzog (Fiztcaralldo, Aguirre).
You won't find any pretense here -- just wonderful story telling by one of cinema's most cherished directors. This film has an obsessive appeal, but towards the scenes in the end of the film, you'll reach a realm of intensely emotional sorrow. You'll be left in awe with one of the most rewarding feelings you can receive from cinema.
If you've tried Kurosawa before but couldn't get on with his Samurai action films -- try Dersu Uzala, which depicts the drama of humanity itself.