Russian film about isolation wins London festival

LONDON (Reuters) - Russian movie “How I Ended This Summer” won the top award at the London film festival on Wednesday, impressing judges with its elemental portrayal of isolation and rivalry set against a bleak backdrop.

Directed by Alexei Popogrebsky, the picture has been a critical hit on the festival circuit since arriving in Berlin in February, where it picked up multiple awards.

The intense psychological drama is set at a remote meteorological station in the desolate Russian Arctic Circle. Sergei tolerates the younger Pavel, who does not take his work as seriously as he should.

When Pavel picks up a radio message concerning an accident to Sergei’s family, he dare not tell him. But when his boss eventually finds out, a dangerous confrontation ensues.

“The film turns the hunter-versus-hunted narrative on its head to provoke powerful questions about life and death, resilience and human compassion,” said Patricia Clarkson, head of the jury at the London festival.

“Tense, moving and universal in its scope, this is a cinematic tour de force.”

Clio Barnard, British director of “The Arbor,” won two awards at the festival’s closing ceremony -- best British newcomer and the Sutherland Award which honours the director of the most original feature debut.

The Grierson Award for best documentary went to “Armadillo,” Danish filmmaker Janus Metz’s gripping account of a group of Danish soldiers fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Armadillo also won a prize at this year’s Cannes film festival, despite controversy surrounding a scene where the troops come under enemy fire and respond in kind.

As previously announced, Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, most famous for his Indian drama “Slumdog Millionaire,” was awarded the BFI Fellowship.

Boyle’s latest picture “127 Hours,” based on the true story of mountaineer Aron Ralston who was forced to cut off his own arm when he was trapped for nearly five days by a boulder, is the festival’s closing film which has its premiere on Thursday.

Also at Wednesday’s awards ceremony, Hollywood director Martin Scorsese was expected to deliver a tribute to the work of the BFI National Archive, which celebrates its 75th birthday this year.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato