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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
How I Ended This Summer [Blu-ray]
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on 8 July 2017
wonderfully atmospheric film
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 21 September 2011
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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on 29 June 2014
The most stunning feature of How I Ended This Summer is its
Arctic setting, the glorious wilderness presenting a grand, yet harsh spectacle every bit as sparse as the film's dialogue. It's a two-hander between Grigoriy Dobrygin's callow youth and the seasoned meteorologist played by Sergey Puskepalis. Writer/director Aleksey Popogrebskiy does an excellent job of conveying the pair's isolation and the monotony of their existence, and there is a convincing tension created by the gap in their ages and experience, although Dobrygin's young adult antics, which highlight the disparity, are a bit 'on-the-nose'. These strands form a solid tripod for the conflict that follows, however it's the catalyst for that conflict that introduces a wobble which, for some, might topple the whole construct, one decision that some viewers might struggle to reconcile with previous events or any kind of sensible human instinct. At this juncture it seems that nothing more complicated than a moral compass is needed to keep their mission on track, but its lack, along with the absence of an actual compass later on, causes no end of ructions. Despite common sense saying that their difficulties could have been avoided by a straightforward conversation, the end result is a convincing escalation and a compelling third act. If you can accept the single, arguably inexplicable (and certainly unexplained) failure to communicate, How I Ended This Summer is a highly satisfying watch and, either way, these three are ones to look out for in the future.
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on 29 January 2015
This film is hauntingly beautiful with superb acting and amazing cinematography. There are only two actors until the very end, but it is never boring, nor does one get the feeling that there ought to be more people involved. This is intelligent Russian cinema at its best, as far removed from Hollywood feel-good fantasy as you can get. Grigory Dobrygin was a young unknown actor until he starred in this film. He has incredible maturity and it is no surprise that he was snapped up to star in the film adaptation of John Le Carre's novel A Most Wanted Man. I hope he doesn't sell out to Hollywood because Russia is very good at producing actors of this calibre and they deserve to keep him, but I hope we will see more of him in Russian and other European films.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 December 2011
Aleksey Popogrebskiy's 2010 tale of two Russian meteorologists stationed on a desolate island in the Arctic Ocean has a great deal of initial promise, and whilst it delivers a rather slow, but always interesting and certainly well-acted, drama it does not quite live up to expectations. Both Sergei Puskepalis as the senior scientist and, particularly, Grigoriy Dobrygin as the underling Pavel deliver solid acting performances, conveying very effectively their mutual sense of isolation and boredom.

The plot, such as it is, centres on Pavel's failure to pass on to Sergei an important message concerning the safety of Sergei's family, and the gradual build-up of tension and distrust between the two characters as Pavel continues to delay making the communication. There follows a series of pursuit sequences as Pavel realises Sergei's likely reaction once the message is received. The film's cinematography, focusing on the remote station in the middle of the arctic wilderness, is superb and serves to reinforce the sense of despair of the main characters.

Despite rather overstaying its welcome at over two hours duration, the film should be recognised as a worthy (and rather original) attempt to cover what is essentially an uncinematic set of events. I was, however, surprised to see that the film won the Best Film award at the 2010 London Film Festival, since (even out of the small selection of films that I saw) I would have rated other films more highly, for example Daniele Luchetti's La Nostra Vita and Peter Mullan's NEDS.
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on 25 August 2015
Once again the Russians show how you can create art cinema by contrasting a bleak subject with extremely beautiful cinematography and superb realism.
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on 11 May 2012
A Russian film with English subtitles might not seem like the most attractive viewing prospect, but putting any concerns aside, this is a compelling drama about two men working in an isolated Arctic Region who find a growing tension between them becomes almost unliveable.
Winner of two Silver Bears at the Berlin Film Festival for its actors and its stunning photography and of the Best Film Award at the London Film Festival in 2010, the film's setting is a remote Arctic island weather station manned by the experienced and dedicated meteorologist Sergei and the less experienced Pavel, who arrives at the weather station with youthful diversions to while away his free time in the unforgiving Winter months he will spend there.
When Pavel receives an important radio message, his awe and tense fear of the older man halts him from telling Sergei the shocking news that he has heard. He tries to find the right moment, but this deception leads to bitterness and suspicion affecting relations between the pair to the degree that Pavel fears that he might be killed by his companion as the news he should have passed on becomes apparent. Dangers are already all around from the harsh conditions they work in to the polar bears that roam the island, so Pavel feels closed in and scared for his well-being and the story becomes a survival drama as more is revealed.
The acting from the two leads is powerful and convincing. The location photography adds to the sense of belief that this is almost another world. This is a story that unravels at the pace that feels right and ends up as being a stunning drama for being so different to other films about being isolated in a remote area. This is cinema about relationships between people, their connection with their environment, about fear and cowardice and the strength of feeling they ultimately have for each other.
For a two hour film, I was gripped completely by it and while it moves slowly for some compared to more mainstream films, I would recommend it to others as a dramatic experience and as an exposure to storytelling using words, action and location to its fullest.
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on 28 October 2014
Brilliant film. Loved every second of it.
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on 22 December 2016
A very fine film, excellently acted and very Russian, dark, gloomy and profound. I had imagined a simple thriller and was very pleased to find that it was more than that.
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on 24 August 2015
gloomy and depressing in a depressing landscape as only Russians can do. Not a patch on Leviathon
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