DVD Review – How I Ended This Summer

There lived a certain man/In Russia long ago...

(special thanks to Film Movement for providing me with a screener!)

Ah, Russia. Land of vodka, cold weather, dour poets, cold weather, beautiful women who turn into withered peasants seemingly overnight an very freaking cold weather. You ever wonder why they sold Alaska to us? Because who needed even more cold land?
This latest release from Film Movement takes place on a remote island in the far North Eastern part of Russia. The island is home to a small weather monitoring station maned long-term by Sergei and short-term by Pasha. Sergei is a man in his fifties who seems to be made of rock and Pasha looks like your basic graduate student living on the tundra to accumulate life experience. That they are not a great match is something of a given.

One day Sergei receives word his wife and young son are flying to a nearby area to meet him. He’s cheerful after this news and decides to go out fishing for a day. While he’s gone, Pasha receives unhappy news that comes as no surprise to anyone who has seen a movie before. This news would be devastating to Sergei, so Pasha tries to hide it, first out of an effort to spare the man’s feelings, and then out of simple fear. Needless to say, he’s not able to keep this news secret forever and soon things take an unpleasant turn…

This was a very good movie. I’ve not seen much Russian cinema, basically only this and Russian Ark, but I really liked it. The director did a very good job of showing the coldness, isolation and uncertainty on an island where at any minute you can be eaten by a polar bear or freeze or starve.

I do feel that the director could have trimmed 10 – 15 minutes of shots from the film and tightened it up considerably. There’s a shot that takes about three minutes that’s nothing of a man walking into a gradually clearing fogbank, and while that was great for setting the scene, it did go on a bit. And while there were certain things in the film that I didn’t really understand (like the presence of a large, radiation emitting device that doesn’t really get explained), I still really enjoyed the movie.

Like I said, I haven’t seen much Russian cinema, but if much of it is like this, it sounds like I have a lot of catching up to. A really great film!