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Movie review: 'Happy People' rambles through life in Siberia

Published February 22, 2013 10:41 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

What kind of people would Werner Herzog, the famously cynical filmmaker who has chronicled man's struggles against nature in documentaries (such as "Grizzly Man") and narrative films (including "Aguirre, the Wrath of God"), consider happy? Somehow the answer in "Happy People: A Year in the Taiga" doesn't surprise.

Herzog and co-director Dmitry Vasyukov follow four seasons in the lives of Siberian fur trappers, hearty men who battle the elements and use ancient technology to catch sables to sell at market each year.

The hunters are at their most raw in the spring, when they dig out from the snow covering their remote cabins, and in the winter, when the bulk of their work is done. The rest of the year, and the central part of the film, is less focused.

Herzog (who narrates) and Vasyukov get distracted by villagers, ice melts and the occasional stray politician.

Despite its rambling tone, "Happy People" does offer some insights about men living by their wits, with their trusty dogs and on their own terms.

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'Happy People: A Year in the Taiga'

Opens Friday, Feb. 22, at the Tower Theatre; not rated, but probably PG-13 for animal violence and some language; in Russian with subtitles; 95 minutes.