This film is a drama but also a psychological thriller and it takes place
in Russia's most distant north-eastern part, the Chukotka region
at the end of the
Euro-Asian landmass and close to Alaska and next to the Bering Strait.
It's for sure one of the best Russian films this millennia and besides
a fine script,
story and great acting the most memorable thing about this film must be
the setting for it. This location at the end of the world and with otherworldly
images of a grim barren landscape that sometimes scares you and sometimes
overwhelms you with it's beauty.
These images i have seen before, in my dreams and i've always been fascinated
by images from the Arctic. I hope this Covid-19 pandemic shit will be
over so you can travel again and i can visit i.a. Russia and Patagonia.
The two men in the film works at a meteorological station
on the island of Archym in Chukotka, but i'm not sure if the island is
fictitious or not or if this
island is supposed to be to the north of Chukotka (like the big Wrangel
Island) or to the east on the Bering Strait (as the Diomedes Islands).
A Short Digression about the Bering Strait and
Russian hero Semyon Dezhnyov/Dezhnev:
The Northwest Passage goes through the Bering Strait,
and Swede Nordenskiöld in 1888 was NOT the first who made it as the
Cossack Semyon Dezhnev,
fur hunter and explorer, did it already in 1648, and
80 years before even Vitus Bering. Dezhnev sailed with seven Kochi, Cossack
riverboats, from the
arctic river of Kolyma around the East Cape and through the Strait down
to the Anadyr River on the Pacific. Possibly he also went by the Diomedes
Islands. He lost 64 of his 89 men, some were killed by natives and other
disappeared (some myths say these men founded settlements in Alaska).
East Cape or Cape Dezhnyov is the most eastern point of the European-Asian
landmass. Big Diomede Island is the most eastern part of Russia.
When the Tsar empire reached the Pacific they met the hardest resistance
from the fearless and strong Chukchi tribe, residents of today Chukotka.
Sergei Vitalievich Gulybin (Sergei Puskepalis) a middle-aged
man and youngster Pavel "Pasha" Danilov (Grigori Dobrygin) works
at a weather station
on an Arctic island. Sergei is a veteran and has been there for many years,
even decades, and Pavel is a student who volunteered working there.
They are doing read-outs of gathered data at regular intervals, connected
by radio to the Meteorological Center somewhere on the mainland.
They are isolated with only each other as company, and they start to chafe
at each other. Sergei seems to be a bit grumpy and domineering over Pavel
as the young guy sits playing his FPS computer games and Sergei thinks
he has a slack attitude towards his readings of the various instruments.
Pavel even seems to be afraid of the older man, but note .... the story
is somewhat told from the view of Pavel and his image of what's happening.
When Sergei is away fishing arctic trout for a day or
two, Pavel is contacted by the Meteorological Center who tells him that
Sergei's wife and son have
been killed in an accident. That they will send an vessel to them which
will take 5 days, and that Pavel should better stay away from Sergei after
him the bad news. Poor Pavel. He was a bit scared of Sergei before and
now he has to deliver this message.
Now comes the twist that some viewers on i.a. IMDB found annoying, but
we don't know Pavel and maybe he was a coward and slightly sociopatic
When Sergei returns from the fishing trip Pavel is too afraid to tell
him what's happened, he somehow just can't find the right moment to tell
Pavel has mismanaged his report duties while Sergei was away and he's
furious .... and Pavel is even more afraid than before.
The film is getting disturbing and unpleasant as we worry over Pavel's
safety, and what will happen when Sergei finally get to know about his
Will Pavel get off the island alive ? Pavel's fear turns him into a hunted
animal but with the will to survive. The ending was GREAT and even gripping
and surely most filmmakers would have taken another route here. Great
work Mr. Alexei Popogrebsky !
The film won prizes at the Berlin, London and Chicago Film Festivals and
the story could've taken place anywhere in some remote part of the world.
The Bluray presents the film in a widescreen ratio not
stated on sleeve (but IMDB says 1.85:1) with a russian audio PCM stereo
or DTS MA 5.1 with
english subtitles, region B. Extras a 40 minute interview and Q&A
by BFI in english and a trailer