How I Ended This Summer
Writer-director Alexsei Popogrebsky won the Russian equivalent of the Oscar for this two-character psychological drama set on an Arctic island during the closing days of a state-run meteorological outpost. Populated only by the gruff station master Sergei (Sergei Puskepalis) and his young assistant Pasha (Grigory Dobrygin), this rather hushed study of isolation amid nature very slowly builds into a smoldering, knotted and then intense tale of self-preservation, human fragility, suspicion, and the rolling-snowball effects of deceit. A background of breathtaking scenery is sprinkled with dull daily routine, the gutting and filleting of trout, the ominous presence of a radioactive isotope beacon, and a rare break for recreation until catalytic news is received from the homeland. The ending is significantly muddled, but the journey there, fueled by powerful performances and jaw-dropping cinematography, is mesmerizing.