How I Ended This Summer (Palace Films Collection) (2010)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 10-Aug-2011

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 124:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Aleksei Popogrebsky
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Grigory Dobrygin
Sergei Puskepalis
Igor Chernevich
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Dmitriy Katkhanov


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     The title of this 2010 Russian film, How I Ended This Summer, sounds very much like a high school essay. As it turns out, a summer spent at an isolated meteorological station in the Russian arctic is a powerful education for recent college graduate, Sergey (Sergey Puskepalis). Trapped in an empty nothingness his story becomes one of mental and physical survival. Sergey is not alone at the meteorological station. His superior is the gruff monosyllabic Pavel (Grigory Dobrygin), a man who has spent many years, off and on, in the harsh polar landscape. The work for the two men is mundane. Each day they venture out into the wind swept grim environment collecting measurements from various devices and communicating the results back by radio to a distant home base.

     To say that Pavel and Sergey don't get on is an understatement. Pavel resents the young upstart with his laissez-faire attitude and Sergey is frankly intimidated by the physical presence and fearsome demeanour of the older man. They keep a grudging distance as Sergey is tasked with bringing the station into the present day with computers. Pavel points out the importance of getting on - bullet marks in the ceiling a stark reminder of the dangers of lengthy co-habitation.

     Left to man the station when Pavel goes off on an unauthorised fishing trip Sergey receives some news he wished he hadn't heard - Pavel's family have been injured in an accident and things are looking grim. His simple task is to pass on the bad news to his superior. When Pavel returns Sergey can't bring himself to communicate the awful news, fearing his reaction. Each moment of the film from that point becomes a slow increase in stress, for Sergey and the audience as he puts off the telling yet again. As time passes the tension rises to breaking point - Pavel finally learns the news and things get ugly very quickly.

     When How I Ended This Summer was shown in the Australian Festival circuit it was marketed as a "cat and mouse" thriller. Instead, director/writer Alexei Popogrebsky has crafted a tense, slow burn drama where the greatest threat to Sergey comes from his own mind. It is perhaps in after thought that the film is most powerful. During the movie it is easy to get drawn into the glacial rhythms of the drama in an environment where cold dominates. It is also easy to see the film as a life-or-death struggle until the final realization that things perhaps weren't as they seemed. There are only two places to keep warm in this environment. One is the hut which the men share and the other a RITEG, a piece of equipment in the wilderness that gives off radioactive heat. Both, it seems to Sergey, are deadly.

     The performances of the two men are superb in their simplicity. In this 2 hour film there are only brief moments where other characters appear and the only other characters are the voices on the radio, distant and crackly, reinforcing the isolation of the men. Special mention should also be made of the gorgeous bleak cinematography. Those who like their dramas fast paced will find this arctic tale too slow but those who enjoy a complex and ultimately moving human drama will embrace this chilly tale. How I Ended This Summer won Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival for the actors and the cinematographer and the film itself was nominated for the Golden Bear. The film also won the Best Film Award at the London Film Festival.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

     How I Ended This Summer was shot on the RED Camera and transferred to 35mm film for cinematic showing. It appears on DVD in the Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.

     The use of the Red Camera gives the film a crisp and sharp look. The colours are bright and stable even under the grim skies.

     There are no technical problems except some very minor additional noise in the darkest of scenes and in the fog bound moments. A Blu-ray release would solve this minor issue. Otherwise this is a stunningly shot, exceptional looking film.

     There are subtitles in English which are clear and easy to read.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     How I Ended This Summer carries two Russian soundtracks. One is a 5.1 track running at 448 Kb/s and the other 2.0 track running at 224 Kb/s. Both are Dolby Digital.

     Both are adequate to convey the dialogue in the film. The surround track is not explosive but it does allow a subtle environmental ambience in the form of the ever-present wind.

     There are no technical problems with the soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There are some brief but interesting extras on this DVD.

Behind the Scenes Interview with Director Alexei Popogrebsky

     This is a series of 9 short featurettes, most no longer than 2 minutes, about the making of the film. Principally interviews with director/writer Alexei Popogrebsky there is also some on-set photography. The film was shot in a genuinely bleak environment with an inquisitive polar bear as an unwelcome night guest! The director describes nature as the determinant of the shooting schedule and also as providing unexpected ambience for a scene such as when the fog rolled in unexpectedly during shooting.

Theatrical Trailer

    The theatrical trailer.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 DVD of this film has a short film as an extra. That would have been interesting but the additional footage of the director probably wins out in the desirablity stakes.

Summary

     How I Ended This Summer is a film that will appeal to the drama lover who doesn't mind the distinctly Russian leisurely unfolding of events. Some of the images will stay long after the final credits have rolled.

     The DVD looks and sounds good. The extras, though sparse, are welcome.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE