«In the First Circle» 2006
2006 / Russia / 10 parts 44 min each, 440 min in total.,/ “Vera Films” with the support of Federal agency of culture and cinematography
Director – Gleb Panfilov
Evgeny Mironov – Gleb Nerzhin
Format – 35mm/ DVD
Rights for theatrical and DVD distribution – VGTRK ‘Russia’, exclusive sales agent “Vera Films”
Based on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s autobiographical novel and set during the fearful times of Stalin’s mass arrests, the series takes place in a sharashka, a prison-laboratory for secret research where Russia’s greatest minds are put to government use. While living conditions in this «first circle of hell» are incomparably superior to the GULAG camps, the scientists there face the moral dilemma of cooperating with an inhuman system. The action begins when a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official makes an anonymous phone call to the American embassy, trying to warn them about a leak of information that would allow the USSR to build the atomic bomb. In order to identify the traitor, the KGB turns to one of the projects at the sharashka. The character of Gleb Nerzhin (Yevgeny Mironov), a mathematician who chooses the horrors of the GULAG rather than compromise his conscience, is based on Solzhenitsyn himself. The First Circle is a hard but optimistic story about the victory of the human spirit over totalitarianism
“Gleb Panfilov rarely makes films nowadays… But, one must admit, that the touch of the master is evident from the very start. First of all it is evident in casting choices and his work with actors…
…How can one dare to adapt a living classic, a legend, and on top of that to involve him into the making of the film? It can only be a person whose films had been seen by everyone, including the great writer himself (no doubt in that). Justifying the great honour granted to him, Panfilov guarantees high quality, which is visible in practically every shot.”
- Igor Kamirov, Utro.ru, 2006
“ The scene of wives’ visit to the prison is one of the most poignant in the whole series. Inna Churikova plays the wife of a prisoner Gerasimovich. Outside the prison there exhistied another GULAG, without the barbed wire, but equally harsh; it was the prison for the wives.”
- Alexander Rogatkin, “News of the Week”, 11.12.2005
Creators about the film
Gleb Panfilov – director
About the Novel: “I read the novel for the first time in 1974 when I was preparing for the production of ‘I wish to Speak’. I was astounded when the ‘samizdat’ version of the novel fell into my lap. I read it in twenty-four hours. I thought – this is what films should be about! However, back then it was impossible to speak about the novel, let alone to adapt it to screen. I carried this deep impression with me until 1996 when I got a chance to meet Alexander Isaevich. He’d seen all my previous work and had no objection to my idea of adapting his novel for the screen”
About casting: I tried to consult the author as often as his schedule would allow. Before showing the working material to the producers, I saw it as my duty to show everything to Alexander Solzhenitsyn first; which I did on various stages of production. When I have cast all the parts, including the main ones, all of the test shots were shown to Alexander Isaevich and Natalya Dmitrievna, and they have given us their firm approval.
Natalya Solzhenitsyna – widow of the author
We would like to thank Gleb Panfilov and his team for making this film. It is wonderful that it has evoked so much discussion. Not because it has drawn people’s attention to the original novel, but because it demonstrates fascination with our history and with our present. There is nothing more alarming for an individual and for the entire country, if its citizens have lost interest and passion to which ever subject matter. There is nothing more frightening than indifference.
The very fact that Alexander Isaevich decided to collaborate with Gleb Panfilov tells us about the nature of his expectations. He highly valued the final outcome. He believed that the actors have reached great heights in their performances. Igor Kvasha in his portrayal of Stalin; it is the most realistic depiction of the leader in his late years. Roman Madianov is amazing in the part of Abakumov. Sergei Karyakin is magnificent in the role of Sologdin, Solzhenitsyn even said: ‘This is unbelievable, not only does he look like him, but he also moves and talks just like him!’. Of course, Inna Churikova is stunning! Words would be superfluous here! Evgeny Mironov delivers a wonderful performance. His personification of Nerhizna is slightly different to the one depicted in the novel, however his performance is utterly organic, it is deep and determined by inner logic. And not to mention the role of Volodin – an extremely complex character, which Dmitry Pevtsov embodies brilliantly... We are also grateful to Maxim Panfilov, the producer, for his titanic efforts; for putting together as complex a film with vast variety of episodes, where all period details and attributes are reproduced with authenticity.
Evgeny Mironov – actor (Gleb Nerzhin)
To be honest, I was hoping for the part that went to Dmitri Pevtsov, the part of diplomat Volodin. However, I always happen to get the most complex ones. I needed to fully understand Nerzhin’s personality, to find the right approach. I have asked Natalya Dmitrievna to introduce me to Solzhenitsyn; I needed to discover some details and facts about the characters prototype. For me, the novel ‘The first circle’ is a story about strong men. About the men who shape their own souls. During our conversation, Solzhenitsyn pronounced a phrase which utterly shocked me. ‘I was lucky to have been arrested!’ he said. And then explained: ‘If this incident had never taken place, I would have never become who I am today.
Inna Churikova – actress ( Natalia Gerasimovich)
I think we have managed to create a deep, meaningful and an interesting film. And in my opinion, it manages to sustain the audiences interest and consternation all the way through , despite the long and complex dialogues which are quite rare nowadays. I have an impression, that when Gleb makes a film he thinks in a very independent manner. He doesn’t cater his films for the target audiences. He trusts his viewer, and believes that one would respond to this story intuitively, in a manner similar to Panfilov’s own response. This is a very universal story, it is in no way elitist. It is the story of our lives, of our people. We have all been through this. And I think Gleb is completely honest in his depiction.