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19 November 2018

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How I Ended This Summer

Directed by Alexei Popogrebsky

If there are 500 words spoken in this film, it is only just barely. Everything about this movie is sparse and barren. But the filmography (shot on location in Chutkotka) is absolutely beautiful, and the tension between the protagonists palpable throughout.

Young Pavel (Grigory Dobrygin) and the experienced meteorological station chief Sergei (Sergei Puskepalis) are serving out the final months of the outpost’s transition from a continuously manned polar station to one monitored soley by computers. There is mounting tension between the plodding, time-worn way of experience (Sergei), and the impatient, sensory-bludgeoned, lazy way of youth (Pavel). And, just as they are finding a way to smooth their differences, Pavel withholds some critical news from Sergei for reasons that are not entirely clear (but one suspects mainly out of fear). Then things spin out of control.

While the ending could have been smoother and some character traits sharpened, this is a fine film (available on Netflix) that has the added plus of offering both harrowing and beautiful images of northern Siberia.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: July/Aug 2011