How I Ended This Summer

  • Film
  • Drama
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Beneath the foreboding skies of a desolate Arctic meteorological camp, the paternalistic relationship between a surly old-school weather scientist (Sergei Puskepalis) and his slouchy young apprentice (Grigory Dobrygin) slides off the rails and into the sea in this frustrating new work from Russian Alexei Popogrebsky (‘Koktobel’). The film’s main setback is that its entire plot hinges on a deus ex machina so abstract, unlikely and incredible that it becomes near impossible to engage with the film on the intellectual level it craves. I won’t go into the nature of the offending development as there is every chance others might choose to read it as a subtle commentary on the apathy of today’s youth, or even a sure sign of the generational gulf in the new Russia. But the feeling is that Popogrebsky has manufactured a human instinct to serve the needs of his story rather than vice versa, and the film suffers badly for it.

Visually, it’s not ugly, but sundry shots of spectacular ice fields feel academically picturesque and impart a sense of prettiness not profundity. Characters, too, totter in arbitrary circles, their motivations entirely unfathomable. Their gradual descent into savagery is signposted by much anguished wailing and even a laughable shot of Dobrygin gnawing at some salted trout like a grizzly bear in a body warmer. So-called ‘slow cinema’, if executed with delicacy, has the power to exert a trance-like hold over us, but this one falls flat at every dreary hurdle.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday April 22 2011
Duration: 130 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Alexei Popogrebsky
Screenwriter: Alexei Popogrebsky
Cast: Grigory Dobrygin
Sergei Puskepalis

Average User Rating

3.1 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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1 person listening
Phil Ince

Yes, well done, David Jenkins. Your failure to understand this film is a sign of insightfulness.

Peter Marcus

Thank-you, David Jenkins, for being independent-minded enough to see beyond the heart-on-sleeve arty-ness of this over-long, depressing work, that appears to have entranced all other reviewers, or at least hynotised them into overlooking very obvious weak spots. You're spot on in identifying the problem as over-intellectualising. Stretching emotional credibility well beyond breaking point, it didn't engage at all, and was an unsatisfying struggle to sit through, let alone enjoy. Yours is the best, most honest and truest review I've so far seen for this film. Thanks for bursting the bubble.

David lever

Beautifully filmed and entrancing to watch. A finely balanced story and well executed plot. The acting was outstanding, with fine nuances and suptle details beautifully displayed by the two lead actors with barely the need for dialogue. outstanding

Phil Ince

This is a very straightforward film, very well-played and film. The Time Out reviewer describes the behaviour as unfathomable which is unfathomable in itself because it's so clear. 2 men staff an isolated Arctic weather station; one is middle-aged, capable, experienced and reserved, the other is a young and incompetent, student volunteer, afraid of his elders. Left alone when his colleague goes fishing, the student takes a radio message for his elder but fails to pass it on because he is afraid of the man's reaction to the news. His anxiety about how to handle the situation leads him into further dishonest actions. By the time he gives the news, he addled by fear of the consequences and the two men end up shotting at one another, the student escaping terrified into the wilderness. From this point, a more complete catastrophe develops. It's a very simple film about the consequences of fear and miscommunication. A long and finely-made tragedy that reminded me occasionally of Solaris. The Russian end credits refer to Chernobyl and there is a radioactive aspect to the environment in the story but I couldn't connect these 2 facts.