Today: April 19, 2024

How I Ended This Summer

Deserved winner of the London Film Festival 2010, for Best Film, How I Ended Last Summer is an exploration of human nature when pushed to its limits,

Deserved winner of the London Film Festival 2010, for Best Film,
How I Ended Last Summer is an exploration of human nature when pushed to
its limits, set at an isolated weather station in the extreme landscape
of Chukotka, near the Arctic Circle in Northern Russia.

Two men are working at the station, veteran Sergei Gulybin (Sergei
Puskepalis) and his summer intern Pasha Danilov (Grigory Dobrygin) who
go about their daily routine of collecting and transmitting data back to
the mainland.

After a fairly lengthy first half in which we are introduced to the
characters, their cold habitat and fairly mundane tasks, it soon becomes
apparent this is not going to be a buddy movie. In fact, these two
could not be further apart in both motivation and temperament. Gulybin
just about tolerates Danilov. While Sergei is a stickler for
timing and order, the lazier Pasha listens to music and daydreams away
his chores as if, like Sergei points out, he was writing an essay on
summer solitude rather than living it.

When Sergei disappears for a day’s fishing trip, leaving Pasha in
charge, not only does the day’s data go unchecked and later forged, but
Pasha learns of news which may ultimately destroy his fiery workmate’s
resolve. Choosing instead to hide the information from him, the pair’s
relationship breaks down and neither wants to trust the other.

Although it is never quite clear why Pasha decides to withhold such
vital information and, even when given a chance to redeem himself fails
to act, it provides an interesting study of two human beings at odds
with each other within a forced relationship – when emotions spill over,
they do so with dramatic effect and makes for great viewing.

The film’s second half really comes alive as the narrative turns from
frigid routine to cat-and-mouse chase when Pasha finally comes clean
and tells Sergei the devastating news he has been withholding. Fearful
of how he might react, a scared Pasha runs off and hides from his him in
the derelict Fog Station nearby. Events take a more dangerous turn
when, struggling to survive alone in such a hostile environment and
paranoid that Sergei wants to kill him, Pasha decides to poison his
former work colleague, using the base’s radioactive waste.

With only two leads to keep us entertained, Popogrebsky does a good
job
of utilising his location with some expansive and
awe-inspiring cinematography. Not afraid to let his surroundings do the
talking, at times we’re simply shown the desolate beauty of the region
in long holding shots to really emphasise the point. Cameraman Pavel
Kostomarov won a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for his work in
capturing the unforgiving landscape.

Those who’ve seen even a glimpse of Das Boot, Buried or The Shining
will recognise familiar strands of humanity breaking down under intense
solitude; something Popogrebsky captures well with his use of facial
close ups, sparse dialogue and a lush musical accompaniment. Both
actors shared a Best Actor Silver Bear prize at last year’s Berlin Film
Festival and amongst the many accolades, the film also was awarded the
Golden Hugo for Best Film at the Chicago Film Festival.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website: thekolsocial.com

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