Monday, April 23, 2012


I’ve got a film for ya. It’s a Russian film called “HOW I ENDED THIS SUMMER”, and it’s available on Netflix streaming as well as on DVD somewhere, I’m sure. When it came around in the US last year, I made a mental note to see it, and see it I did this past weekend – and it’s a real tense, dramatic stemwinder with two terrific performances from the male leads, who are essentially the only ones on camera the entire time. Taking place at an Arctic substation where various readings are taken – coordinates, temperatures and other things I don’t understand, but which are apparently necessary for the Russian government – it’s a portrait of how immaturity, loneliness and misunderstanding can turn into something deadly and terrifying.

Pasha is the young “intern”, essentially, who’s come up to the frozen Arctic for a summer – the sort of summer in which it never gets dark and there are mosquitos everywhere. An Arctic summer, you might say. We see Pasha at various times rocking out on his headphones and playing violent video games back in their insulated shack/dorm room, which is outfitted with a rudimentary sauna and various old utensils in which to cook fish and walrus. Sergei is the middle-aged old hand who relays at times during the fairly sparse dialog that he’s been coming here for years to do this sort of mundane measurement work. You need to be a hardy, resourceful soul to survive even the summer in the Arctic, and early on we see Pasha sternly chastised by Sergei for naively leaving their residence without cartridges in his gun. There are polar bears, you know. It becomes obvious early on that Sergei has a barely-disguised loathing for his young, incompetent helper, a disdain that only increases in intensity as Pasha misses several crucial readings due to oversleeping.

If I give away much more I’ll have to reveal some major plot points, and I don’t want to do that. So let it be said that because of some things that happen, some circumstantial timing, and most importantly because of some things that are not said, these men for all intents and purposes end up hunting each other in a race to the death across the tundra. It reminded me more of battle-for-survival films like “Touching The Void” than it did an intense Russian drama, and it’s actually a bit of both. It may be a slowly-paced film, but it’s not a slow film at all. It is deliberate and exceptionally pulse-racing in parts. I think it’s a must-stream for all you film nerds out there.