Director: Aleksei Popogrebsky
Starring: Grigory Dobrygin, Sergei Puskepalis
Duration: 130 min.
At a polar station on a remote island in the Arctic Ocean. Sergei, a veteran meteorologist, and Pavel, a recent college graduate, are spending months in complete isolation on a once strategic research base. Pavel receives an important radio message and is still trying to find the right moment to tell Sergei, when fear, lies and suspicions start poisoning the atmosphere...
How I Ended This Summer is a Russian film written and directed by Aleksei Popogrebsky. It premiered at the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival where Grigoriy Dobrygin and Sergei Puskepalis shared the Silver Bear award for Best Actor, and cinematographer Pavel Kostomarov was recognized for his outstanding achievement in camera work. It was also selected as Best Film at both the BFI London Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival.
A psychological drama set on a remote and desolate island in the Russian Arctic, the film explores the effects of isolation on human behavior. Definitely the most notable thing about How I Ended This Summer is the stark and minimalistic cinematography. The cold and barren landscapes of the island, and the old rundown buildings of the once important research base serve as the film's backdrop. There are several astonishing time lapse sequences in the film to show the hours passing, the camera looking out of a window and capturing clouds roll across the bleak and wind swept vistas. All of it sharing with us the sense of isolation felt by the two main characters.
Pavel or Pasha as he is called, the young assistant played by Grigoriy Dobrygin and Sergei the experienced senior researcher played by Sergei Puskepalis. Both men give brilliant performances, perfectly enacting their roles with great chemistry. We see the fascinating dynamic of a young slacker versus the older man who takes his work seriously. But like all good psychological films all is not what it seems. When Sergei entrusts Pavel to handling the duties in order to go on a quick fishing excursion, Pavel receives an urgent radio message from the mainland. A shocking bit of information that weighs heavy on Pavel's mind and the consequences of what he does with this message begins to unravel his fragile psyche.
It's not a perfect film. There are parts that drag a bit, and others that leave us a bit confused, but it is still a rewarding effort, and one that is very breathtaking to watch. Russian cinema lately has been plagued with a rash of uninspired Hollywood style knockoffs, but this one is certainly a step in the right direction.