Screened as part of NZIFF 2010
A terrific psychological thriller drawing an encompassing, deeply unsettling atmosphere from its wild Arctic setting, How I Ended This Summer is both spartan and spectacular, a magnificent vindication of the giant screen. Two men work taking readings from their partly radioactive surroundings at an isolated meteorological station on an island in the Arctic, in the far east of Russia. Keeping one eye out for marauding polar bears, Gulybin, the older man, is utterly alert to his environment and its inherent dangers. He is also seasoned to the loneliness, the primal glare of the white nights and the relentless tedium of collecting and logging data.
His antsy new partner Danilov (Russian cinema’s current posterboy Grigory Dobrygin), coming equipped for boredom – iPod, video games, fitness programme – jars on the irascible older man’s nerves in ways he never comprehends. When Gulybin asks Danilov to cover for him while he gets in a day’s fishing, the resentful, increasingly intimidated younger man fails to grasp responsibility and places himself in terrifying danger. — BG
“Popogrebsky’s film proves that, even in the CGI era, film-making can still be an outward-bound muscular adventure… Rich in resonance, the story can be read partly as a brutal coming-of-age story, with the two men as a surrogate father-son duo; as a quasi-religious ordeal in which Danilov must go through earthly hell to redeem himself; or as a King Lear-type epic of madness and the elements. But the film also works as a nail-biting yarn, a tale of extraordinary endurance both for Danilov and for the actors.” — Jonathan Romney, Screendaily
“A tense, psychologically astute thriller... luminously beautiful” — David Larsen, NZ Listener