Alexei Popogrebski

(Copyright © 2011 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

7.0 How I Ended This Summer

Alexei Popogrebski (Russia, 1972)

Koktebel (2003)

Popogrebski codirected his first work “Koktebel” with the russian filmmaker Boris Khlebnikov. The movie outlines Popogrebski’s meticolous attention to details and shapes of nature. Desolate russian fields backs the story of a father and his son trying to reach the so called “Koktebel”. Pushed by his will to change his life, the father is soon caught in a dangerous stituation caused by bad habits of his past. Reluctant to continue the journey, he decides to change his course while his son continues alone his quest for Koktebel.
(Stub prepared by Virginia Liverani)

Prostye veshchi / Simple Things (2007)

Simple Things is Popogrebski’s solo debut. His past as a psychology student is easy to be seen in every movie scene, each one equally oriented to explore human relations through a documentary-like moving camera and through Popogrebski’s obsession with detailed facial expressions. Afflicted by a sense of failure that deprives of meaning every daily interaction, the” everymen” Sergei Maslov is depicted in a static period of his life. The meeting with an old actor changes his idea of friendship.
(Stub prepared by Virginia Liverani)

The highlight of Kak Ya Provyol etim Letom / How I Ended This Summer (2010) is Pavel Kostomarov's cinematography. The psychological thriller, per se, hinges on the flimsiest of plots. The allegory is at least two-tiered. Superficially, it is just about the contrast between two generations, the older one that believes in family and job, although very willing to break the law to go fishing, and the younger one, that is indifferent to social duties, busy entertaining itself with rock music and videogames. At a deeper level it is centered on the younger man: how it feels to be inside one of his favorite survival-themed videogames.

Two men live alone in an isolated Arctic meteorological station: Pasha, a young man who listens to rock music, plays videogames and finds ways to entertain himself with the expensive equipment, and the older grumpy taciturn Sergei. The veteran is rude with the kid, clearly not impressed by the new generation. They hardly ever chat, despite the fact that there is nothing else to do in that desolate landscape. One day Sergei takes off for an unauthorized fishing trip. Pasha is alone at the station when the message comes that Sergei's wife and child have been seriously injured in an accident (but it's clear that they are actually dead). The boss is sending a ship to pick up Sergei but it will take five days. However, when Pasha meets Sergei again, Pasha does not relay the important message. Sergei teaches him how to clean fish. Then Sergei gets mad at him because he did a lousy job with reading the instruments. Sergei, furious, explains to the kid that generations of scientists have lived there and produced realiable readouts, that some of them even died there. Pasha is clearly less impressed by the mission of the isolated station. We are not told why, but the result is that Pasha hides the radiogram about Sergei's wife and children. It could be revenge for being treated like a child, respect for Sergei's devotion to the station, or the fact that Sergei finally treats like him a human being, even when he's angry at him. Later Sergei sends a message to his wife. The operator at the other end who is supposed to relay it hesitates, aware that it makes no sense, but then goes ahead with it without saying a word. When the boss calls back to make sure that Sergei got the radiogram, Pasha even sabotages the radio. Now they are also cut off from the world. Then Sergei takes off for a three day trip and Pasha is alone when the boss calls again to communicate that the ship is stuck in ice. They are sending a helicopter before the weather worsens. He packs a gun and, forgetting about Sergei, he sets out in the wilderness, looking for the rescue point with the only help of a map. However, the helicopter can't pick him up because of fog. Pasha stumbles into the wreckage of a vehicle and sees a polar bear. Pasha runs away, and is terrified to see that the bear is chasing him. Pasha slips on ice and falls... He wakes up in Sergei's boat. Sergei rescued him and is taking him back to the station. Finally, Pasha finds the moment to tell Sergei that his family is dead. Sergei goes mad and seems ready to attack him, Pasha grabs the gun and shoots, then Sergei grabs the gun and shoots too (but misses on purpose). Pasha locks himself in the station while it starts snowing. There are no news about Sergei's whereabout. Then Sergei shows up, and it looks like he is determined to kill Pasha. The kid runs away and risks his life to get down a steep cliff. Then he hides, freezing, in a cave, seeing that Sergei is looking for him in a boat. The following day Sergei is not at the metereological station and Pasha tries to contact their boss and ask for help while frantically eating. The struggle continues until one day Pasha, hungry and freezing, gives up, and is welcome back by Sergei. The two exchange just a few words. Sergei basically tells Pasha that the ship is coming and not to tell what happened between them. When the ship comes, however, Sergei decides not to go. Pasha insists that he goes too, if nothing else to get a medical check-up (implying that the old man might be going crazy); but Sergei grabs his head and tells him in a tone that does not admit dissent that he needs to stay there alone (perhaps to commit suicide?)
(Copyright © 2011 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )