Friday, January 21, 2011

How I Ended This Summer

Alexsei Popogrebsky's "How I Ended This Summer" has a shaky, underwhelming plot with good doses of emotional manipulation. While watching, I was hung up by the bewildering way the film was developing. However, it at least partially transcends this with incredible, incredible cinematography that should not be missed. There are certain shots in this film that really sum up for me what cinema can do. To describe one: Pavel (Grigoriy Dobrygin) has just tried to flag down a helicopter with a flare. He drops the flare to the ground in front of a wall of fog. The camera lingers on the scene for at least a minute, as Pavel heads towards the background and the fog clears to reveal a green backdrop. It's remarkable, one of many great shots that utilize composition, landscape, and (somewhat desaturated) color in great ways.

The film concerns Pavel's internship at an Arctic weather establishment, where he and Sergei (Sergei Puskepalis) take down esoteric data again and again and report it people in some place that's probably nowhere near as cold. Why Pavel decided to come is beyond me; he seems consistently lonely, bored, and tired, listening to music to relieve the difficulty of living there.

One day, Pavel receives a transmission that Sergei's family has been killed in some accident. Since he feels that Sergei will be terribly upset, he withholds the information, much to the chagrin of the people who gave it to him. The film makes an obvious attempt at evoking dread when it has Sergei, unknowing of the deaths of his loved ones, tell joyful personal stories. It works on some level, but seems somewhat cloying.

I wish there had been more to this film. I guess there is other action (frantic dashes from one side of the island to the other; hiding in remote places; the proverbial gun in the first act being, if mutedly, fired later on), but its all not terribly well thought out. Pavel Kostomarov (interesting coincidence) definitely deserves plaudits, though, for shooting the film in the way that he does. It's a "technical achievement" that sometimes feels as if it breaks out of being labeled solely as such. It hasn't the strength to quite do that, in my opinion, but it may qualify for some viewers as a nice finding (sitting as it is On Demand). B-


Stephanie said...

The imagery in this movie does sound amazing. I guess it's best to go into it not expecting any more than that.

Nick Duval said...

Right. The plot is decent, actually, but I just was expecting a lot more.