Russian Film Set in Arctic Wins Top Prize at London Film Festival

28 10 2010

Click to read spoiler

At a polar station on a desolate island in the Arctic Ocean, Sergei, a seasoned meteorologist, and Pavel, a recent college graduate, have been spending months in complete isolation on the once strategic research base. Pavel receives an important radio message and is still trying to find the right moment to tell Sergei, when fear, lies and suspicions start poisoning the atmosphere…

Visually and stylistically film is perfect. The cinematography with its slow-pacing, static long shots and scenic wild nature shots is gorgeous. The atmosphere is tense and time seems to be moving slowly and cold wind is on its way. The characters deal with responsibility, the instinct of self-preservation and the influence of isolated space on humans.
Two meteorologists stationed in the Arctic desert discover that the weather isn’t the only thing that can be fearful. The film starts off at near-glacial pace and then rolls into a suspenseful thriller.

The story takes place at a weather station located on an island in Chukotka, Russia’s most northerly and eastern autonomous region. Its summer and the island’s only two residents — long-serving technician Sergei (Sergei Puskepalis and Pavel ( Grigory Dobrygin) — still need plenty of warm clothing when they go out to take readings from the instruments they monitor. The only lifeline to civilization is a two-way radio that they use to phone in their data.
The two have little in common. When not working, Sergei likes to go fishing for Arctic trout, while the Pavel prefers to listen to his iPod or play computer games. As the beginning slowly unfolds, interspersed with outdoor scenes that establish the bleakness of the surroundings, Sergei explains how simple it is for men to go mad up there, pointing out the bullet holes in the ceiling.

When Sergei goes for a few days to go fishing, Pavel is left in charge. A call comes in from the base station with a terrible message– Sergei’s wife and young son have been killed in accident. Pavel is told to give Sergei the message and then leave him alone while they await a ship that will come to collect him. But when Sergei gets back, Pavel can’t bring himself to be the bearer of such terrible news.

Pavel continues to keep his secret, hoping he can leave the job of telling Sergei what’s happened to the rescue team. But when Sergei goes out again, the base station furiously orders Pavel to find Sergei and bring him back. This means a dangerous journey into polar-bear territory and a surprising psychological twist occurs.

Director Popogrebsky uses lots of cutaways to small, telling details and close-ups to create sense of intimacy, and they are interspersed with extreme long-distance shots that make figures seem even more tiny and fragile as they toil through the landscape. Dobrygin and Puskepalis virtually carry the whole show and they are wonderful. The cinematography is wonderful, the lighting is spectacular and the music is beautiful.




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