Customer Review

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Arctic, Up Close and Personal., 21 Sept. 2011
This review is from: How I Ended This Summer [DVD] (DVD)
This film comes with a pretty good CV. It won the Silver Bear at last year's Berlin film festival and has received mostly positive reviews. Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian thought it "a gripping and superbly acted Russian drama". The one real discordant note came from Mark Monahan of the Telegraph who against the flow thought it was "two hours of your life you'll never get back". Pretty strong words that I feel are a bit harsh. I will stand firmly alongside Bradshaw's honest assessment! This relatively modest film only uses two actors throughout, but given the extraordinary levels of their performances this is all you need for a thoroughly engrossing film.

The film is set in a remote Arctic research station in the Russian Arctic, where two scientists who happen to be, no pun intended, polar opposites, work together in islolation collecting data. The older man is a staunch product of the old Soviet system, whilst the younger is most definitely of the new era. The older man played with impressive authority by ex theatre director Sergei Puskapelis, is the dependable old school type, whilst the young man who is some sort of college placement, suffers from the irresponsibility that occasionally afflicts youth. He is played by Grigory Dobrygin, fresh out of theatre school. This young man is seen filling his spare time with less practical matters like computer games. Their situation changes dramatically when the young man fails to deliver a vitally important message to the older one. Suddenly the relationship begins to break down catastrophically. We head to an ending that surprises.

This film was made at a remote polar station in Chukotka district in Russia's very far north easterly extremity, nine hours time difference from Moscow. It was an inspired choice of location. It is unusual to see a Russian film shot so far north. The buildings of the polar station have a wonderful post Soviet feel of neglect and decay, with peeling paint and weathered wood everywhere. It has that same feel of isolation and other worldly remoteness that made "Solaris" so genuinely creepy. The small crew of twenty, including the actors, spent 3 months with the scientists of this remote station to make the film. Not an easy task given the harsh weather conditions! There is also a typically Russian sense of hyper realism at times, with the cold permeating every pore and even the mosquitos, an ever present summer pestilence in those latitudes making an appearance. This is a vision of the Arctic that is up close and personal! The cinematography is stunning at times, and the colour grader unusually gets a special mention in the credits. This will come as no surprise if you watch the films astonishing closing scenes. The film has a wothwhile extra with a live interview of the talented director of the film Aleksei Popogrebsky, chaired by Ian Christie at the BFI, and with a knowledgable audience. Clearly an intelligent man Popogrebsky speaks fluent English and gives an interesting insight into his work. Hopefully he will make many more fine films like this one!
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Initial post: 13 Jan 2015 21:39:58 GMT
Morghini says:
Great review - thanks.

Mark Monahan of the Telegraph is clearly a prat simply awaiting another Tarantino blockbuster - I loved every second of this film, the cinematography, tension everything about it in fact.
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