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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Critic Reviews for Happy People: A Year in the Taiga
"Happy People" seems to strain toward the notion that harsh nature makes for a pure heart. And perhaps it does for some. But all?
Titling a documentary about snowbound Siberian fur trappers "Happy People" is not as ironic as it seems.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).