"V kruge pervom" is a ten-episode TV-series based on the autobiographical book 'The First Circle' by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Film is set in 1949-1950, in Moscow and in a prison-laboratory ...
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Fly-on-the-wall treatment of an ordinary day in the life of a prisoner in Stalin's Gulag. Closely adapted from Solzhenitsyn's classic novel based on his own experiences. Shot entirely on ... See full summary »
In the USSR, political prisoners who were scientists were not always sent to GULAG, but also to The First Circle (named after Dante's Inferno), a special incarceration unit near Moscow where they could work for the government.
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"V kruge pervom" is a ten-episode TV-series based on the autobiographical book 'The First Circle' by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Film is set in 1949-1950, in Moscow and in a prison-laboratory in the town of Marfino, near Moscow. Gleb Nerzhin (Mironov) is arrested and imprisoned in "Sharashka" in Mafrino, a prison-laboratory for secret research. His life has a value due to his degree in mathematics. He is involved in making a telephone bug, a research program which is supervised by Stalin. Written by
An excellent filmatization of one of the most important novels of our time.
In 1968 a book called 'В круге первом' was published, its English title was 'In the First Circle' (sometimes just 'The First Circle'), and it has since become not just widely acclaimed but accepted as one of the most important novels of the 20th century. Its author, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, was himself a prisoner in a sharashka (a Soviet prison for scientists where they were forced to ply their trade for the benefit of the state) and as such it is not far-fetched to call this an autobiography. With regard to this miniseries, it should hold the same historical accuracy as the novel since director Gleb Panfilov is assisted by the author himself. The author even insists on narrating it himself. This does indeed seem to be history repeated as clearly as by a photograph - well, except for the portrayals of Soviet leaders, which seem to be viewed through the lens of the prisoners.
The plot concerns itself with the inmates of Mavrino, a sharashka near Moskow, and also others who concern the place, Josef Stalin included. This place is labeled by Solzhenitsyn as 'the first circle', a reference to the topmost layer of Hell as presented in 'Divina Commedia'; in both places the inhabitants remain untortured yet eternally restrained in hopelessness and prevented from even glimpsing heaven. I do not think it unlikely that this is also an allegory for the Soviet state and its imprisonment of its own people.
The miniseries contain many characters, so many that I'm sure most producers wouldn't even dream of including all of them in such a small series as this. Yet, the huge gallery and their individual functions and sentiments are essential in what makes the novel into a great one - they provide a spectrum of viewpoints and opinions that all play a part in explaining why that small community functions the way it does, and how it relates to the greater Soviet - so Panfilov had to include them when the story was set into motion on a screen. Unfortuenately, a gallery of such size needs a good introduction so that the viewers can put them to memory, and here the miniseries fail. This issue alone makes the first two episodes into a laborious experience. Fortunately this is the series' only fault of note. Also, knowing the names of each individual is not really necessary; the series focus on their experiences, thoughts, and philosophies, and the lack of a name does not hinder the viewers perception of these.
The novel and the series are alike down to the very details. (The series does contain elements from the novel's original manuscript, which was censored before it was allowed to be released, and it remained censored until 2009; in other words, most who already have experienced the novel would have experienced the censored version and thus find the story somewhat altered.) Watching the series is of course a different experience than reading the novel, a visual experience does differ from a purely mental one, although the content is the same. Thus I would claim the series and the novel complement each other while each contains the whole story by themselves, therefore they can be equally well enjoyed together as alone. The experience is in any case as profound as can be expected of such an important work.
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