Review: How I Ended This Summer
The winner of the best film award at last year's London Film Festival, this is a big Russian drama with a tiny cast, exploring extreme emotions in an extreme location.
It obeys the traditions of Russian movie drama by being long, taciturn, visually compelling and enigmatic to a degree that may be a bit infuriating.
Pavel (Grigory Dobrygin) and Sergei (Puskepalis Puskepalis) are working through the nightless Arctic summer on a remote meteorological station. Two men, alone in an isolated base, they're going to fall out aren't they? Relations between the grizzled and experienced Sergei and his younger assistant are hardly warm to begin with, but the tension between them escalates when Pavel receives an important radio message while he is supposed to covering for Sergei who has snuck off fishing.
The film is a mixture of the spectacular and mundane, both visually and in terms of the plot.
There are great sweeping Arctic terrains, but their little base camp often resembles a big hut on the pebbles near Dungeness.
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The story is about the escalation of small things (mini spoiler – the plot hinges on the difficulty of finding the right moment to break bad news) into major life-threatening dilemmas.
The movie has a slow building, almost imperceptible tension that keeps you involved. By the end, though, opinions are likely to vary widely as to whether the film actually rewards the attention. The film suggests that there is something unknowable about human motivation.
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How I Ended This Summer (12A)
Director: Aleksei Popogrebsky
With: Grigory Dobrygin and Sergei Puskepalis
Length: 130 mins