A Frozen People Happily Warm with Possibility
I honestly donít have a ton to say about Happy People: A Year in the Taiga other than I hope people make the journey out to their local art house theatre to see it. Taking over four hours of footage compiled by Russian director Dmitry Vasyukov, iconoclast Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man, Cave of Forgotten Dreams) has managed to craft a 90-minute treatise on surviving in the Siberian wilderness that matches his own idiosyncratic naturalistic sensibilities rather brilliantly. It is a visually marvelous, emotionally exhilarating and mentally stimulating journey into the unknown, the movie a pleasantly eye-opening experience difficult to not be delighted by.
The Siberian wildnerness in Happy People: A Year in the Taiga
© Music Box Films
But what else is there to say? Herzog once again delivered a commentary-like narration that looks at manís place on the planet with a wondrous, child-like sensibility yet also reacts as sounding board and conscience for what he sees as a humanity running itself into the muck and mire. He finds joy in these people scrounging out a rough and ready existence in the Taiga, finds pleasure in how their dogs frolic in the snow and their children carry on their parentís livelihoods.
Not sure any of this makes Happy People a great film, and it by all means shouldnít be confused as one of the directorís great documentaries. And yet, the movie entertains to such a degree it borders on rhapsodic, the sights and sounds Herzog, and it should be said Vasukov (it is his footage, after all), have chosen to show us something close to out of this world. As on the nose and didactic as the filmmaker can be at times (his narration isnít afraid to slap the viewer across the face a time or two) that doesnít make anything being shown remotely less compelling, this frigid wasteland a bastion of resilience and inspiration that brought a smile to my face and made my own imagination run wild with possibility.
Film Rating: ÍÍÍ (out of 4)