Happy People: A Year in the Taiga


Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2013)


Critic Consensus: Filled with breathtaking images of the foreboding Siberian countryside, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga is a fascinating look at an isolated society.


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With HAPPY PEOPLE: A YEAR IN THE TAIGA, Werner Herzog and Russian co-director Dmitry Vasyukov takes viewers on yet another unforgettable journey into remote and extreme natural landscapes. The acclaimed filmmaker presents this visually stunning documentary about indigenous people living in the heart of the Siberian Taiga. Deep in the wilderness, far away from civilization, 300 people inhabit the small village of Bakhtia at the river Yenisei. There are only two ways to reach this outpost: by helicopter or boat. There's no telephone, running water or medical aid, The locals, whose daily routines have barely changed over the last centuries, live according to their own values and cultural traditions. With insightful commentary written and narrated by Herzog, HAPPY PEOPLE: A YEAR IN THE TAIGA follows one of the Siberian trappers through all four seasons of the year to tell the story of a culture virtually untouched by modernity. Werner Herzog's distinguished filmography includes documentaries (Grizzly Man, Encounters at the End of the World, Cave of Forgotten Dreams), narratives (Fitzcarraldo, Rescue Dawn), and many shorts. (C) Music Box

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Werner Herzog
as Himself - Narrator, Narrator

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Critic Reviews for Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

All Critics (46) | Top Critics (21)

"Happy People" seems to strain toward the notion that harsh nature makes for a pure heart. And perhaps it does for some. But all?

Mar 15, 2013 | Rating: C | Full Review…
Detroit News
Top Critic

Titling a documentary about snowbound Siberian fur trappers "Happy People" is not as ironic as it seems.

Mar 7, 2013 | Full Review…

Herzog's longing for the ideological purity in which these lives are lived, free of paperwork and bureaucracy, taxes and technology, drives the film, which lacks an overall story arc.

Feb 28, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

It's a do-it-yourself world that Herzog clearly admires - much of what we see is the men performing the tasks that enable them to survive.

Feb 22, 2013 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

They decidedly don't seem happy. And "Happy People's" decision to skate down the frozen Yenisei without examining their unhappiness more closely leaves a slight chill.

Feb 22, 2013 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Albeit a found film of sorts, Happy People is very much of a piece with Herzog's other work, examining man's place in the natural world, looking at man's history and man's ability to survive, to endure.

Feb 15, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

Werner Herzog's, Happy People is yet another example of what makes him a good filmmaker. It's observant, beautifully shot, and restrained in its narration, letting the images and people speak for themselves. The film follows a group of trappers in the incredibly brutal and remote Siberian Taiga. So isolated, this area can only be reached by boat or helicopter, and only during certain times. Herzog captures this vastness beautifully, giving us expansive shots of the barren landscape, in its boldness and its breathtaking nature. Here we get intimate insights in to the men and women who brave this land, who, in their simplicity and assuredness, offer a lot of profound insight. Visually, the film is stunning, as Herzog's work tends to be. Here Herzog is able to put to film something that seems surreal, it is so foreign to us. It is always engaging, and features just the right mix of narration, images, and dialoged from the trappers. Herzog lets what they say unfold organically, and the shots he is able to captures are nothing short of astonishing. An excellent documentary. 4/5 Stars

Jeffrey Meyers
Jeffrey Meyers

Super Reviewer


Happy People: A Year in the Taiga is another amazing documentary from Werner Herzog. He always chooses very human stories and Happy People is no different. This is about as pure human as you can get anymore. We see people living in the Siberian Taiga, who have no running water, no electricity, no stores, no cars, nothing, but what they make and what they kill. They live off the land. Along the way we meet trappers, boat makers, fishermen, hunters, and a WWII hero. Most aren't given a lot of screen time, as we mostly follow one trapper. I like that we're given a lot of time with one person because it allows us to see someone in every aspect of their life in the Taiga, but also because the trapper who has all the screen time is extremely interesting. Happy People is a film that everyone should watch. It's about people who are truly free, which is a theme nailed home by Herzog's narration many times. The people of the Taiga aren't confined to the types of lives we lead. There's no law, there's no telephones, no computers; nothing but the people themselves and what they create. This is one of those movies that just makes you want to get out of the consumerist, wasteful society we live in. 

Melvin White
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

I never thought I'd say this, but while watching this film I actually missed Werner Herzog's usual grand pretentiousness. "Happy People" is a very interesting look at a culture so distant from (but in some ways shockingly similar to) our own, but a lot of life in the Taiga is slow, uneventful business, and that is definitely reflected in the film. It may be worth seeing if you want a peek into a different way of life, but unlike Herzog's previous films, it doesn't explore the underlying human themes nearly as much as it could have(or in my opinion should have).

Sam Barnett
Sam Barnett

Super Reviewer


"Happy People: A Year in the Taiga" is a fairly routine ethnographic documentary about fur trappers living in a remote part of Siberia that is improved by Werner Herzog's spirited narration.(Seriously, could he just narrate every documentary, plus become the official voice of Roger Ebert and do Monday Night Football?) He even sounds a little envious of their lives while the rest of us get to complain when the temperatures fall into the teens. The trappers do get their say as they perform tasks that have been handed down from generation to generation with occasional technological improvements like snowmobiles and chainsaws. (Sadly, the indigenous population do not have the same option as their traditions are dying off with their elders.) Basically, if you want to learn to how to make an efficient, if not stylish, pair of skis, you've come to the right place. And man is that a big hammer! So while the trappers depend on the outside world for supplies to arrive via helicopter and boat, weather permitting, and to sell their furs, they pay little attention to what goes on elsewhere, especially the singing politician, and just go about their lives.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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