One place. One day. Two men. The place is a polar research station on an island in the Arctic Ocean, inhabited now only by Sergei and Pavel. One day when Sergei is out angling, Pavel picks up a radio message that he daren't communicate.
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Somewhere in Northern Russia in a small Russian Orthodox monastery lives an unusual man whose bizarre conduct confuses his fellow monks, while others who visit the island believe that the man has the power to heal, exorcise demons and foretell the future.
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Adequacy is relative. Vitalik, the main character of the movie, seems to be pretty normal. With a respectable office job, a comfy little dwelling and a personal couch doctor, Vitalik looks ... See full summary »
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A polar station on a desolate island in the Arctic Ocean. Sergei, a seasoned meteorologist, and Pavel, a recent college graduate, are spending months in complete isolation on the once strategic research base. Pavel receives an important radio message and is still trying to find the right moment to tell Sergei, when fear, lies and suspicions start poisoning the atmosphere...Written by
Koktebel Film Company
It is a small travesty that more films like this from across the pond don't get a wider audience (I think the only reason this has managed to get a UK release was the fact that it won Best Film at the BFI London Film Festival). But this small gem has managed to escape obscurity and has now been given a cinema release so that everyone can enjoy this small gem.
First, may I state the following: this is not a thriller! Please do not start watching this film expecting Russia's interpretation of Hitchcock - you will be sorely disappointed! The film itself has relatively little in terms of plot - a fact that another reviewer has (unfairly) criticised it for. Instead, what we receive as viewers is a quietly poignant, at times almost meditative exploration of isolation and the tensions that arise between the two leading characters in the vast, sparse, beautiful terrain of the Arctic in which they work.
As the film develops, the suspense certainly mounts, and at one point, a tense cat and mouse chase does develop. Indeed, it is not only themselves, but their surroundings which they have to tread carefully around - sinister hints about a deserted house on a cliff top and the danger posed by polar bears play their role. But don't try and second guess the film, because above all, this is a truly understated, moving exploration of human fragility rather than an action flick. The ending made me smile in surprise, and I felt ashamed at how cynically I had felt that I knew where the film was going. You will never see an ending as mature as this coming from Hollywood.
I won't bother with a plot summary - the one provided by IMDb is more than sufficient. What I will say is that both the acting and the cinematography are superb. The two leads both do wonderful jobs in which the performances require far more than the confines of the dialogue - so much of this film takes place in silence, and both men tackle their parts with great success. Then there is the cinematography - it has been a while since I have seen such beautiful images come together to create such an atmosphere of isolation and buried tension. The vast, beautiful landscape, the pale blue skies, the gentle lull of the sea, the calm glassy lakes, the dark, imposing cliffs, and then the intermittent fog... postcards could be made using some of these images. The effect is perfect.
In short, this is definitely worth the watch, and it's one to look out for in 2011!
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