How I Ended This Summer

Director: Aleksei Popogrebsky
Starring: Grigory Dorbygin and Segei Puskepalis
Distributor: Palace Films
Runtime: 124 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
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Rating notes:

How I Ended This Summer is a beautifully crafted film, set in one of the most extreme north-eastern parts of Russia and filmed at an actual weather station. It is the story of two men, posted to check readings, especially of radioactivity as well as weather, in this remote area. The film capitalises on the isolation, the loneliness, the vastness of the space and the island with the ice floes and the sea, the mountainous background, even the presence of a polar bear. It also makes the audience lose a sense of time with the Arctic light as well as the regular hours in which the two men have to make their reports to headquarters.

However, the film described as an existentialist drama, will be taxing for even a patient audience, given its length. At times it seems like a reality film on the Discovery Channel or the National Geographic Channel. At moments it seems like Survivor and, with the appearance of the polar bear, Get Me Out of Here. Finally the film becomes rather melodramatic as the two men confront each other.

However, the crisis caused in the film could have been righted in about one minute. The film shows a young man, on internment at the weather station for the summer, absorbed with his MP3 and computer games, sleeping, unreliable and altering data when he forgets to make communication. However, in his irresponsibility, he does not pass on a crucial message to the older man – and there are grievous consequences.

Some people get very impatient with characters – declaring that they need a good swift kick up the backside or need a good slap. While this reviewer does not subscribe to this particular process, it was very tempting to think about it in terms of the young man who shows huge immaturity and irresponsibility.

A film which is to be admired – but one which many audiences would find very difficult to sit through.

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