The Hell of the Arctic Circle in How I Ended This Summer

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How I Ended This Summer
Directed by Alexei Popogrebsky
Film Movement
Opens February 4, Lincoln Plaza

The only men inhabiting miles of hostile landscape, Pavel and Sergei (Grigoriy Dobrygin and Sergei Puskepalis) live and work in a meteorological observation post on an island in the Arctic Circle. Between them exists the natural uneasiness of different lifestyles and generations: Sergei, a phlegmatic taskmaster who has resigned his life to the service, is 20 years older than the passing-through Pavel, restless and glad to retreat behind the shelter of his headphones. Their tenuous truce is threatened when Pavel hesitates to pass along a vital message from the mainland to Sergei. One flinching failure of nerve accumulates into a scrambling cover-up, an illustration of philosopher Sissela Bok’s maxim “The first lie must be thatched with another or it will rain through”; when the rain comes, it’s a downpour. Popogrebsky and his dueting cast give the escalating emotional tension of their story necessary veracity. Playing an ignoble protagonist, Dobrygin keeps his motives always quietly evident; later, lost in a fog painted red by an emergency flare, he’s an abject vision of man in a hell of his own making. As the conflict turns feral and spills out of doors, details of survival and attrition recall the Russian affinity for Jack London. The wrap-up shows Popogrebsky uncertain of what he means to say, but there is much to see beforehand.

 
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