Critic Reviews

74

Metascore

Based on 16 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com
88
Like "Grizzly Man," Herzog's latest documentary, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga is mostly built around another filmmaker's priceless footage.
80
At bottom, though, Happy People celebrates the hard-won freedoms that living in the Taiga offers those who are willing to confront its challenges. There are few places on the planet where the strictures of society don't apply, and the trade-off for fending off bears and minus-50-degree weather is the opportunity to lead a pure, solitary life.
80
Herzog has become a master of the understatement - knowing just how long the images can sustain you without a word being said. Vasyukov and his team of cameramen gave him a stunning range to work with, so the filmmaker keeps his own narration to a minimum.
80
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. And that longing makes the title's veracity a little suspect.
75
The film is both elegiac and amazingly retro, like the nature specials that baby boomers were weaned on - although it's not for animal lovers, unless you have a specific grudge against sables. "Happy People" is the title, but it's virtually all men.
75
“Happy” isn't meant ironically. Herzog, who narrates, clearly loves, and envies, the trappers' elemental existence and connection to nature.
70
While the original version's four hours might have made for wearisome viewing for Western audiences, Herzog's 94-minute cut feels just right, fully immersing us in this rarified world without lapsing into tedium.
67
It's not that Happy People is uninteresting - its presentation of previously unknown, distant lives is full of lots of interesting tidbits. It's just that the one sensibility of which we were previously aware - that of Herzog's - is indiscernible, as if frozen beneath all this movie's ice.
60
This Siberian jaunt, free from cultural weirdness and ethical barbed wire, is even more of a vacation for Werner Herzog than it first appears: The German codirector never left L.A.
60
There is indeed much beauty on display, from the icy Taiga landscape to the age-old trapping techniques passed on through generations. But this does feel like a lesser Herzog project (he joined on after it was shot). For viewers who don't share his awe, a short film probably would have sufficed.
25
Slant Magazine
It would be inaccurate to call Happy People: A Year in the Taiga the newest Werner Herzog film.

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