The former Soviet Union, mostly known as Russia, is a vast land with isolated stations spread allover the country so meteorologists can monitor and forecast weather patterns. One such station, far beyond the Arctic Circle in far north-east Russia, is operated by veteran meteorologist Sergei (by Sergei Puskepalis). His station is in the land of the midnight sun – here “summer” means it’s total daylight for months on end and winter brings a similar long period of total night. Although summer, it is still bitterly cold and whilst beautiful, it is inhospitable, stark and exposed to the elements. In this season of summer daylight Sergei has a visitor, a student assistant, Pavel (by Grigory Dobryn), who is here to assist and to monitor new technology installed to check its accuracy prior to full operation. Their only link to the outside world is a two-way radio.
Sergei is looking forward to a period of leave from the station to see his wife and young son. One day he goes to hunt Arctic Trout for the food store (and also so he can take some for his family). Pavel stays behind in the hut to continue the work. He passes time with video games and his iPod. Before Sergei returns, a call comes across the radio that Sergei’s family has been involved in an accident and Pavel must tell Sergei this terrible news so he can be taken to see them – a boat has been sent but will take days to arrive at the station. Pavel needs to find the right time to tell Sergei, but he is anxious – which is better? … not telling Sergei and continue this barren life then risk his anger once the boat arrives to take him? or tell him now and risk his behaviour when he is traumatised and anxious with no outlet for his emotions, until the boat arrives? Pavel makes his choice and things start to unravel …
This film is magnificent. It wasn’t until I was about two-thirds through the movie that I realised I was watching just two men and their overwhelming environment. It’s been made wonderfully – dialogue is infrequent and terse, so the audience gets much of the drama through observations and visual cues. It is done very well. The pace is leisurely but appropriate for the story and build-up of tension. Dwarfed by their environment, we watch the day-to-day routine of the men and feel their isolation, boredom and exposure to the elements – we also begin to understand the total beauty but danger of the place. Once things start to get more thrilling, there is one small portion where things lost their impact, but all in all it is an excellent movie.
Made in 2011. Directed by Alexei Popogrebsky