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Happy People: A Year in the Taiga
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Gnady is also very proud of his own self sufficiency in the forest, showing how he actually built a hut and and a pair of skis. They fell the trees for the hut and skis, with their most modern piece of equipment being a chain saw.Read more ›
"Happy People: A Year in the Taiga" is the latest in a series of nature documentaries by Werner Herzog (here with co-direction by Dimitry Vasyokov), this one chronicling life in a Siberian village over a twelve-month period. Bakhta is located alongside the Yenisei River in the Taiga Forest, and the inhabitants there have been eking out an existence under some pretty challenging conditions for centuries now (this is Siberia, after all). We watch as they make preparations for trapping, build cabins in the wilderness, fashion out canoes from old tree trunks, fish in the river, fend off bears and mosquitoes, and store up supplies for the brutal winter to come. For this is life as it is lived in one of the most misbegotten outposts of civilization. As Herzog himself says, these people resemble early Man from a distant ice age. And, yet, as the title implies, the inhabitants of Bakhta are far from unhappy with their lot.
This is reflected most in the many wise and canny observations about the value of hard work and the cyclical nature of life emanating from one of the town's most seasoned citizens, a sort of rural philosopher who`s been trapping in that area ever since the Communist government dropped him off and left him to fend for himself more than forty years ago. It is his commentary, more than even Herzog's own voiceover narration, that draws the viewer into this strange and unfamiliar world, one that is striking in both its harshness and its stark beauty (the image of a massive river of thawing ice heading swiftly northward during the spring is not one that will be easily forgotten).
This isn't Herzog's most innovative work by a long shot, but if anthropological studies are your preferred fare, this movie will surely fit the bill.
However, a warning may be in order for the hypersensitive viewer: this is NOT a movie that comes with the proviso, "No animals were harmed in the making of this film."
Having just re-watched Nanook of the North)recently, Herzog's Happy People revisits people who live hand-to-mouth in a place where the summers last about as long as a Twitter trend and the winters determine your every action in life. We meet our central characters with a much more serious tone than we met Nanook and his family almost one hundred years ago. Instead of Canada, however, they subside in Siberia with semioccasional modern conveniences (chainsaws and snowmobiles are all that come to mind). The landscapes sometimes remind me of the bleak Wisconsin winters of Stroszek and other times mosquito-infested shots from Grizzly Man.
More importantly, however, is the way the camera reads their faces. These are mostly trappers, men of small stature and tall on wisdom. This is not the stuff of John Colter from The Lewis and Clark Journals or some tough guy with a big truck that defines his manhood-- his existence-- with the fact that he shoots mammals and will show you pictures on his Android if you give him five seconds to get started. No, these are a dying thread of man's survival through the last Ice Age.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is such a beautifully filmed documentary of a people who live off the grid and in such a harsh environment. Read morePublished 19 hours ago by J. Benfield
from what i can tell this is an honest, informative documentary about people living in the Taiga forests in Russia. Read morePublished 1 day ago by John E. Duitsman
If you like a good documentary this one was it. It was amazing on self reliance.Published 2 days ago by Amazon Customer
Fascinating look into lives of people who dwell in a harsh but beautiful land.Published 2 days ago by Nancy M. Manning
I grew up in Alaska and later studied Russian as a hobby so I loved every minute of this fascinating film. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Sobek
Very interesting and enlightening on how these people live and survive.Published 2 days ago by Larry R Davis
Strangely entertaining. Not exactly a documentary but very interesting glance at the village life of hunters in Siberia. Once i got started I couldn't stop watching it!Published 7 days ago by 2276467