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A Worthy Effort
on 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.