AFI Fest 2010
By Don Simpson | November 22, 2010
Director: Johnny O’Reilly
Writer(s): Aleksei Kolmogorov, Johnny O’Reilly
Starring: Pyotr Logachev, Vladimir Gusev, Sergey Garmash, Aleksey Guskov, Anton Shagin
After a severely isolated weather station located in the sub-zero environs of far north Russia breaks contact with the outside world, two detectives (Aleksey Guskov and Anton Shagin) arrive to investigate. The station appears to have been recently abandoned and there are no signs of what happened to the three full-time inhabitants. Time seamlessly flashes back and forth between their present investigation and a few days prior when the weather station was still occupied…
Two highly experienced meteorologists, both in their fifties, are employed at the weather station. They have a lot of free time to fill, so they have hobbies to keep their minds occupied: Ivanov (Vladimir Gusev) builds elaborate sculptures from matchsticks; Drozdov (Sergey Garmash) is a devout researcher of the Yeti. They have a new houseboy, Romash (Pyotr Logachev), a nineteen year old who was raised in an orphanage after watching his parents get killed. Romash is an expert at hiding — in attics, under floorboards, in air ducts, in secret rooms — an important skill that has lead to his survival thus far.
A young married couple — Vadim (Sergey Yushkevich), a rich banker, and his beautiful young wife Irina (Marina Aleksandrova) — arrive at the weather station unannounced. They have come to this desolate and unforgiving place to go exploring in some nearby caves to celebrate their anniversary. The lonely men at the weather station are just happy to have some company, so they welcome Vadim and Irina to stay the night. The inhabitants of the weather station mysteriously begin to disappear and/or die — is a murderer or a Yeti in their midst?
Johnny O’Reilly’s feature-length directorial debut, The Weather Station quickly evolves into a claustrophobic film noir — or, more appropriately, film blanc — with plot twists aplenty. Cleverly toying with the narrative devices of Alfred Hitchcock, Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, no one is exactly what they seem, and no one can be trusted. There are seductions, double-crosses, and murders — all in the name of greed and lust. The pacing, structure and editing of the two parallel narratives adds a lot more heat to the smoldering tension.
As with most film noir, the environment plays an incredibly important role in this tale. In the case of The Weather Station, the building structures are just as cold and menacing as the ever-changing weather outside. Aleksandr Simonov’s cinematography and Nikita Chernov’s production design are absolutely stunning — I am quite disappointed that I missed the 2010 AFI Fest screening of The Weather Station (I received a DVD screener shortly after the festival concluded), because I bet this film would be exponentially gorgeous on the silver screen. Now I can only hope that the The Weather Station will get some decent theatrical distribution in the United States.