How I Ended This Summer Reviews
Sergey es un meteorólogo experto que está acostumbrado a pasar temporadas enteras lejos de su familia en una pequeña isla en el Oceano Ártico. Pavel es un universitario recién graduado que decide pasar su verano ayudando a Sergey. Ambos no podrían ser más distintos y desde el principio existe una tensa calma entre los dos. Un día mientras Sergey ha pasado unos días pescando truchas, Pavel queda como encargado de reportar las cifras diarias, es informado que la familia de Sergey ha muerto, y le dictan un telegrama para informarle cuando regrese. Pavel se siente profundamente perturbado ya que no tiene ni idea de como reaccionará ante la noticia, y ya ha sido testigo de su temperamento en varias ocasiones. Lo que sigue es un juego de gato y ratón donde las tensiones están altas y nada es lo que parece.
How I Ended This Summer es una película sutil en sus intenciones, pero lo que nos entrega es una historia compleja y llena de incógnitas. Me pareció ingenioso como el director juega con las impresiones que tenemos de ambos personajes para confundirnos acerca de lo que está sucediendo. Desde el principio nos pintan a Sergey como un hombre inestable y abusivo, por lo tanto cuando Pavel finalmente le da las noticias de su familia, le encontramos la razón en sus instintos de escapar de él. Más adelante vemos que Sergey hace un esfuerzo para lograr una reconciliación pero Pavel se encuentra tan perturbado por la situación que falla en darse cuenta de esto y cae en una desesperación aún más grande pensando que su intención es asesinarlo.
Es entendible estos comportamientos cuando son sólo ellos dos que se encuentran en un aislamiento total, con un clima extremo. También la diferencia generacional entre ambos hace que sus acciones se presten a malentendidos. Sergey es un hombre que se toma en serio su trabajo porque ha visto cosas traumatizantes durante los años en esa cabaña. Además que para él significa un sacrificio enorme porque le toca pasar mucho tiempo lejos de su familia. Su carácter es fuerte y a veces amenazador. Pavel mientras tanto es un joven que no se toma en serio el trabajo. Para él, es temporal y no tiene un gran peso en su vida. Durante toda la película es capturado tratando de distraerse y divertirse lo más posible. Estas diferencias logran crear una brecha entre los dos, que termina siendo nefasto.
El Oceano Ártico es el trasfondo perfecto para esta historia. Sus paisajes se ven pacíficos y hermosos desde lejos, pero son realmente mortales. Esta película termina siendo exitosa en todos los niveles. El ambiente que va tejiendo poco a poco sirve para que el desenlace sea totalmente realista y se quede en tu mente durante mucho tiempo después.
Before I even looked all that deeply into the structuring of this film's story concept, I wasn't exactly expecting all that thick of a plot, and when I did read more into Alexei Popogrebski's storytelling sensibilities, I was expecting plotting to be so thin that I would end up looking at yet another boring art piece that's a whole lot more souless style than substance, so you can imagine my relief in finding that the final product, while not without plenty of dull spells, is not as thin as I feared, which isn't to say that it succeeds in being meatier than I initially expected it to be, because at the end of the day, this plot is still pretty thin, no matter how much it tries to blow things up. At almost 130 minutes, this film is much longer than it needs to be, seeing as how its story is so thin, even in concept, and achieves such a length mainly through plenty of padding, some of which is excess material and exposition, and most of which is simply absolute nothingness that stops momentum cold, occasionally to the point of leaving the film to slip into the mediocrity I feared was going to conquer it on the whole. The aimless bloating within this film's storytelling isn't so extreme that the final product drives your patience much too often and much too much for it to be even mildly worthy of your time, but this film is in no way a stranger to repetition, suffering from too much padding that perhaps could be easier to forgive if it wasn't backed by some serious atmospheric pacing issues. Again, this film isn't the tedious chore of a bore that I was fearing it would be, and even that fact isn't one to not cause something of an issue, because as consistently slow as this film is, there still come occasions in which storytelling's steady flow is broken up by a relatively lively kick that is rarely, if ever too hard, but just noticeable enough for you to find yourself thrown off by shifts in pacing. Of course, quite frankly, I honestly wish that this film was much more uneven with its pacing, because although there is enough kick to things to keep the final product from being too boring to be engaging at all, when this film faces trouble with the task of finding something to do, - as it very often does - things slow down something fierce, sometimes to a crawl, and consistently to a dull point. The film is a little boring, plain and simple, and sure, it offers just enough compensation for its slow spells - of which there are oh so many - to be reasonably enjoyable on the whole, but at the end of the day, this film is about as underwhelming as you can get while still being fairly decent. Still, make no mistake, this film is decent, being a very slow watch that will undoubtedly be too much of a challenge to plenty, but one that the patient can enjoy, especially when we come to an all too rare occasion when things are actually livened up a bit.
Music is pretty sparse in this overly quiet film, and when it is, in fact, brought into play, it's almost always presented through young Grigoriy Dobrygin's Pavel character's iPod playlist in the form of a contemporaneous pop-rock instrumental that's more fluff than soul, so I won't go so far as to say that I like this film's soundtrack, but as a supplement to what lively spots there are in this slow effort, this music breathes some energy into things that may help in backing up the occasions of unevenness within pacing, but still gives certain moments some much-needed color. A more consistent compliment to the color of this film is, of course, Pavel Kostomarov's cinematography, which is hardly as upstanding as far too many people say, but still quite commendable, at least at times, as there are plenty of simply average points in coloring and lighting, until they are broken by moments in which Kostomarov puts his fine taste in framing to good use by absorbing the full depths of color and lighting within this film's environment in a crisp fashion that catches your eye, and occasionally your breath. The film is a commendable visual piece, there's no denying that, being not as pretty as plenty of other, maybe even slower and thinner films of this type, but still quite good-looking, with plenty of artistic style that helps in keeping you going, almost as much as the undeniably intriguing areas of this film's concepts. Like I said, this film's plot is a thin one, even on paper, so it's not like you should have ever expected this puppy to pick up all that much, and yet, it is hard to deny that certain spots within this barely juicy tale do have a bit of a kick to them, especially when such kick is brought to life by moments within Alexei Popogrebski's direction that are, in fact, effective in their playing with a tightly meditative atmosphere to create some sense of claustrophobic tension that reinforces this film's consequential value, however thin it may be. There's really not much too this film, and such minimalist storytelling has been the death of plenty of other slow dramatic "thrillers", yet there is a certain genuineness at the center of this overly meditatie storytelling that has too often devolved into repulsive pretension, and helps in breathing life into an undeniably adequate degree of engagement value, which goes further reinforced by a pair of genuinely effective performances. The film is centered around only two people, and considering that this film is skating on thin ice (Pun pertaining to this film's Arctic setting not intended), the performance of our leads can make or break the final product, and sure enough, while our leads aren't too strong, they are commendable, with Sergei Puskepalis convincing as the mysterious older gentleman who can either be a good friend or a serious danger, while the handsome Grigoriy Dobygin (I'm guessing his first name means Gregory; Russians, what are you gonna do?) particularly compels in his often emotionally involved portrayal of a young man whose environment and colleague will present to him dangers that could very well threaten his life for his own mistakes. The leads may have both taken home Silver Bears, but I don't feel as though we're looking at Oscar-worthy performances here, though we are definately looking at competent talents who do quite a bit in driving this film, which is an often dull mess, but one that is surprisingly and thankfully more enjoyable than not, no matter how much a challenge it may be to some.
At the end of the summer, or at least the day, you're left with a film that takes some serious immediate damage from a thin plot concept, whose issues go emphasized by plenty of bloating, as well as an unevenness in pacing that mostly lands in territories of a slow nature that often dull things down, almost to the point of plunging the film into mediocrity, and decidedly to the point of plunging the final product into underwhelmingness, though not so deeply that it doesn't recover as decent more often than I expected, as there is just enough color to visual style, intrigue to storytelling and engagement value to acting to make "How I Ended This Summer" a reasonably engaging theater that stands to pick up the pace, but doesn't fall behind to surely that you can't stick with it more often than not.
2.5/5 - Fair
The slowness of the film is almost the point of its delivery in order to show us how boring their lives/jobs are. We have to experience the boredom in order to feel it fully and to understand the plot better and perhaps why things turn out the way they do.