How I Ended This Summer (Russia)

2010 Russia

SUNDAY 12th FEBRUARY 10.00 am


Grigory Dorbygin (Pasha) is a young intern with the experienced Sergei (Segei Puskepalis) in the isolated wilderness of a Russian arctic island meteorological station. When Pasha takes a personal and dramatic message for Sergei but fails to pass it on, guilt begins to grow and his small lapse soon grows into a tumour on his heart and soul.


Filled with cinematic gems, from the time lapse photography of the landscape to the raw storyline (Ingmar Bergman comes to mind), the film has an immersive quality with its magnetic subtlety. It starts promisingly and proceeds with dramatic grip until the third act, where filmmaker Aleksei Popogrebsky lets the reins fall from his storytelling hands.

Using the power of close ups and the possibilities of this stark landscape, Popogrebsky ignites our curiosity with his laconic style. The two men, whose relationship is at first mentor and trainee, hardly communicate but for the purposes of their work. It’s a basic sort of relationship and the setting underlines their isolation in the arctic summer. Both actors are terrific.

It’s only when the crackling short wave radio on which they communicate regularly with their HQ brings bad personal news for Sergei that the dynamics are altered. Pasha (officially Pavel) can’t find the right moment to pass on the message, first because he gets in trouble with Sergei for failing his duty when the news is fresh, and later because it gets ever more difficult to find the right moment.

Popogrebsky is rightly fascinated by what can develop from such a seemingly small failure and manages to keep us on edge as we wait for Pasha’s realisation that he can no longer keep the message secret. The film’s tone is beautifully maintained, and Dmitri Katkhanov’s sparse score works a treat.

All of this works well, until Popogrebsky makes a few flawed decisions of his own. The film then presents us with some decisions that the characters make which I find hard to accept, but they are crucial to the film’s resolution. Flawed, but exceptional all the same.