Movie review: Movie explores the lives of villagers in remote area of Siberia

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It's a great place for dogs, Bakhtia. In winter, when the Yenisei River is frozen over in this remotest patch of Siberia (accessible only by helicopter or, in summer months, by boat), the huskies go hunting with their masters, or tag along behind undulating snowmobiles, or curl up in a patch of sun in an opening between massive firs.

When the ice thaws, they help to catch fish. The males and females breed. Puppies are born, and the cycle continues.

'Happy People: A Year in the Taiga'

3.5 stars = Very Good
Ratings explained

  • Rating:

    No MPAA rating (adult themes).

Although "Happy People: A Year in the Taiga" isn't really about the dogs, documentarian Werner Herzog is fascinated by them and their relationship with man. But per the title, this engaging film -- which Mr. Herzog cut from a four-hour Russian TV program by Dmitry Vasyukov -- is about the human residents of the village in the Taiga boreal forest.

Hunters, trappers, carpenters -- these are men (and a few women; we don't meet too many) who live as their forebears did centuries ago. Yes, there are power saws and snowmobiles, but there are also axes and cross-country skis carved from fallen trees.

Mr. Herzog, he of the mellifluous, German-accented voice and the ridiculous work ethic (this is his 24th nonfiction feature; he has made almost as many fiction films, and he acts now and then, too), waxes lyrical about the simple, rugged life on display in "Happy People." This film is very much of a piece with Mr. Herzog's other work, examining man's place in the natural world, his ability to survive, to endure. And if there's a dog there to help, that's all right, too.

Opens today at Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill.



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