Happy People: A Year in the Taiga Reviews
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.
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.
Film opens in "Bakhtia" a Russian village habituated by some 300 Ket people. They are only reachable during summer-time via riverboat and helicopters when the ice has somewhat thawed. Mostly the men work in the severe cold. Yvgeny finds the summer time to be perfect for axing fine even wood for ski - the wood-plier of which should be unbendable but masterfully adjusted within the duct of the frame.
Residents (including children) walk, work and talk under heaps of mosquitos (humming can be heard), as if some flies have gathered over dead animal. The remedy for putting these mosquitos away is by making tar and then applying it on their skin, as well as dogs'. They celebrate Christmas on 6th January than 25th December; another festivity they proudly celebrate is the vanquishing of Nazi.
Werner Herzog then shows us how men make their canoes through hereditary skills using especially designed wood-cutters to level the surfaces. In the times during which the river runs they ferry packs of bread, catch fresh fishes bring other items until the river starts frosting. Although many of them still can drill through ice in bits, opening it up wider enough to dip in nets and catch fishes.
Then comes the focal point in the documentary, when the trappers go out to apply tricks to capture sables along with their hunting-dog (a hunter is determined by the dog he owns says the trapper). These trappers build high-rise tree-storages for keeping their hunts safe from the mice and bears.
Yet again Werner Herzog's obsession with ice comes in face of "Happy People: A Year In Taiga". It is perfect anthropological study of the tiny population of Bakhtia who are so happy with their struggle and survival. As Herzog says in the documentary "these people have no worries about taxes, government, radio, phone etc". Herzog's explaining of every bit of conflicting scenes always catch my attention. For example I felt quite bad when I saw a trapper driving 150km on his motor-ski while his dog is running behind - before I could have thought of something, Herzog already cleared that by saying that, the dog does not get on the ski rather runs behind (even at the nightfall).
This documentary is for those who have always wondered about the life in Siberia. Since childhood I had been hearing about swarms of Siberian birds in mass-migration to our region 'Sindh' for "Indus-River (Sukkur, Sindh - 9th largest river and in Asia and largest in Pakistan)" therefore my urge has been fulfilled by watching this documentary.