Saturday, June 11, 2011


Aleksei Popogrebsky, 2010
Starring: Grigory Dobrygin, Sergei Puskepalis

A surprisingly well crafted thriller that borrows liberally from Hitchcock but manages to tread on some of its own ground. I think everyone else in the theater was a little confused after the credits rolled, but it was nominated for the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Fest and the two leads shared the award for Best Actor. Over all it borrows liberally from suspense and survival-horror, as well as throwing in some interesting visual cues from slasher films, but blends these elements to make something ambitious and exciting.

Pavel, a young intern, and Sergei, an experienced meteorologist, are spending the summer collecting data in a station on the coast of the Arctic Ocean. Though Sergei is a perfectionist, he grows to gradually trust Pavel and gives him more and more responsibility. Unfortunately, Pavel receives an important radio message meant for Sergei that bears some tragic news. Pavel doesn't know how to deliver it and delays the message, leading to an almost comic level of misunderstanding that plunges both men into a cycle of suspense and insanity.

Though it's a bit slow and doesn't play out as I expected, it's marked by two great performances, some talented directing and lovely cinematography. I'd recommend it for fans of suspense and art house cinema, as well as anyone interested in checking out some of the newer Russian cinematic efforts. Keep in mind that it is slowly paced and very minimalist, so if you're expecting something quick and action packed, pass this up. Over all it is ambitious, subtle and worth the effort.

Film Movement released a region 1 DVD, so don't worry if you're not fluent in Russian. Rent it first, but you should find it an enjoyable way to pass two hours, particularly on a hot summer night when, if you're like me at all, you'll be dreaming of snow and ice.

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