One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1971)

G | 100 mins | Drama | June 1971

Director:

Casper Wrede

Writer:

Ronald Harwood

Producer:

Casper Wrede

Cinematographer:

Sven Nykvist

Editor:

Thelma Connell

Production Designer:

Per Schwab

Production Companies:

Leontes Films, Norsk Films, Group W Films
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HISTORY

Throughout the film, an unidentified actor provides voice-over narration explaining what "Ivan Denisovich" feels and how the machinations of the camp work. The onscreen Norsk Film Studios crew credits are preceeded by the statement: "Made at the Studios of Norsk Film Oslo Norway, technicians and staff."
       Odin den Ivana Denisovicha (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich) was the first and only novel by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (b. 1918) to be adapted into an American feature film. The writer was arrested in Feb 1945 for criticizing Joseph Stalin in a letter to a friend, and subsequently sentenced to eight years in a labor camp. His experiences in a camp in Ekibastuz, Kazakhstan became the basis for One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich , which he wrote in secret during his post-prison exile and after he was reprieved. The novel first appeared in the Russian magazine Novyi Mir in 1962, marking his first published work. The attention garnered by the novel prompted the Soviet government to disallow the publication of any further works, and despite having won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, Solzhenitsyn was deported from his home country in Feb 1974. He moved to America in 1976 and continued writing there, and in 1994 returned to Russia after the government restored his citizenship, after the fall of the Soviet Union.
       The film version very closely follows the novel. As noted in press materials, Finnish director Casper Wrede read the novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in 1963 and determined to film it, considering it an important statement about man’s ability to endure. A former mentor ... More Less

Throughout the film, an unidentified actor provides voice-over narration explaining what "Ivan Denisovich" feels and how the machinations of the camp work. The onscreen Norsk Film Studios crew credits are preceeded by the statement: "Made at the Studios of Norsk Film Oslo Norway, technicians and staff."
       Odin den Ivana Denisovicha (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich) was the first and only novel by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (b. 1918) to be adapted into an American feature film. The writer was arrested in Feb 1945 for criticizing Joseph Stalin in a letter to a friend, and subsequently sentenced to eight years in a labor camp. His experiences in a camp in Ekibastuz, Kazakhstan became the basis for One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich , which he wrote in secret during his post-prison exile and after he was reprieved. The novel first appeared in the Russian magazine Novyi Mir in 1962, marking his first published work. The attention garnered by the novel prompted the Soviet government to disallow the publication of any further works, and despite having won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, Solzhenitsyn was deported from his home country in Feb 1974. He moved to America in 1976 and continued writing there, and in 1994 returned to Russia after the government restored his citizenship, after the fall of the Soviet Union.
       The film version very closely follows the novel. As noted in press materials, Finnish director Casper Wrede read the novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in 1963 and determined to film it, considering it an important statement about man’s ability to endure. A former mentor of star Tom Courtenay in British theater and television, Wrede worked for six years to find funding for the film, according to a Nov 1971 LAT article.
       On 1 Oct 1969, Var reported that the British production company Leontes Films would partner with the Norwegian company Norsk Films and America’s Group W Films to produce One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich . The script would be written by Ronald Harwood from a new translation of the novel by Gillon Aitken. Leontes was created by Courtenay, along with Wrede and Harwood, specifically for the production and made no other films.
       As noted in contemporary sources, the film was shot on location for seven weeks in Roros, Norway, near the Arctic Circle, with an additional three weeks at the Norsk Film Studios in Oslo, Norway. Contemporary sources report the budget as $700,000. Studio press notes stated that temperatures during filming reached as low as negative forty degrees and that producers built a full-scale replica of a Soviet labor camp based on sketches by a former inmate and a Russian artist. The supporting cast was mainly made up of actors from the Royal Norwegian Theatre. DV noted in Dec 1969 that the Soviet authorities were reportedly displeased with the film, and that members of the Soviet press visited the production but refused to reveal their interests there.
       According to modern sources, prior to its American premiere, the film was released in Sweden in Dec 1970. Critical response was generally positive, with director of photography Sven Nykvist’s work praised especially. Despite the film’s somber subject matter, it was a modest financial success. An Oct 1971 Var article addressed the various causes for its victory, including an aggressive promotional campaign and the decision by distribution company Cinerama Releasing to hold the release until the fall, when schools were in session.
       In Feb 1971, Publishers Weekly reported that two new versions of Solzhenitsyn’s novel were being published, one of which included the film’s screenplay and an introduction by Harwood. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts nominated One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich for the 1972 U.N. Award. Solzhenitsyn’s novel had previously been adapted for television, appearing on NBC’s Chrysler Theatre program on 8 Nov 1963. As noted in a 5 Mar 1974 LAT article, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was re-released in Mar 1974.
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
22 Dec 1969.
---
Daily Variety
19 May 1971.
---
Filmfacts
1971
pp. 398-401.
Films and Filming
Apr 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Oct 1969.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jan 1970
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
22 May 1970
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
18 May 1971.
---
Life
25 Jun 1971.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
15 Oct 1971.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
7 Mar 1974.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Oct 1971.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 Nov 1971
pp. 22-23.
Los Angeles Times
5 Mar 1974.
---
Motion Picture Herald
16 Jun 1971.
---
New York Times
17 May 1971
p. 40.
Publisher's Weekly
15 Feb 1971.
---
Variety
1 Oct 1969.
---
Variety
11 Feb 1970
p. 2, 24.
Variety
25 Mar 1970.
---
Variety
12 May 1971.
---
Variety
19 May 1971
p. 17.
Variety
13 Oct 1971
p. 23.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
[From a] translation by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Orig drawings
COSTUMES
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd mixer
Re-rec mixer
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod exec
Prod mgr
Dir's asst
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
Norsk Film Studios tech
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Odin den Ivana Denisovicha (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich) by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in Novyi Mir (20 Nov 1962).
DETAILS
Release Date:
June 1971
Premiere Information:
American premiere in New York: 16 May 1971
Production Date:
late Jan--late May 1970 in Roros, Norway and at the Norsk Film Studios, Oslo, Norway
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Eastman Color
Duration(in mins):
100
MPAA Rating:
G
Countries:
United Kingdom, Norway, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1950, Ivan Denisovich suffers through another day in the eighth year of his ten-year prison sentence in a Siberian forced labor camp. Inside the crowded barracks, Ivan, who has felt ill all night, dreads the coming morning and its accompanying punishing work in sub-zero temperatures. When he does not manage to stir from his bunk quickly enough, a guard punishes him with three days in the solitary cells. After the other men try to console him, he is released from the sentence by a guard who realizes that they need as many men working as possible. Outside, one prisoner climbs a frozen pole to read the temperature, and they are all disappointed to learn that it is only twenty-seven degrees below zero, as it must be below negative-forty for work to be suspended. After Ivan scrubs the floor of the guards’ office while they call him a swine, he eats his meager breakfast of watery fish soup and boiled grass. He then visits the infirmary, but the attendant there chastises him for coming too late, as only two men per day can be exempted from work. Ivan knows that the men have been ordered to work at a remote site to build the Socialist Center for Cultural Activities. With no shelter available, the assignment promises almost certain death. Returning to the barracks, he hoards half of his daily bread ration, then is pleased to learn that they have been reassigned to another work site. Alyosha, who sleeps next to Ivan, reads aloud from a small religious tract. The men wrap their feet in blankets, then don their thin boots to line up in the snow. The guards then ... +


In 1950, Ivan Denisovich suffers through another day in the eighth year of his ten-year prison sentence in a Siberian forced labor camp. Inside the crowded barracks, Ivan, who has felt ill all night, dreads the coming morning and its accompanying punishing work in sub-zero temperatures. When he does not manage to stir from his bunk quickly enough, a guard punishes him with three days in the solitary cells. After the other men try to console him, he is released from the sentence by a guard who realizes that they need as many men working as possible. Outside, one prisoner climbs a frozen pole to read the temperature, and they are all disappointed to learn that it is only twenty-seven degrees below zero, as it must be below negative-forty for work to be suspended. After Ivan scrubs the floor of the guards’ office while they call him a swine, he eats his meager breakfast of watery fish soup and boiled grass. He then visits the infirmary, but the attendant there chastises him for coming too late, as only two men per day can be exempted from work. Ivan knows that the men have been ordered to work at a remote site to build the Socialist Center for Cultural Activities. With no shelter available, the assignment promises almost certain death. Returning to the barracks, he hoards half of his daily bread ration, then is pleased to learn that they have been reassigned to another work site. Alyosha, who sleeps next to Ivan, reads aloud from a small religious tract. The men wrap their feet in blankets, then don their thin boots to line up in the snow. The guards then force the men to undress in the frigid cold, and when some are caught wearing extra undershirts, they are stripped of the shirts and commanded to hand in a written explanation, despite the fact that they have no pens or ink. When one man, a former navy captain, protests that making the men strip is cruel, he receives a ten-day sentence in the solitary cells, to begin after he works a full day. On the barge that takes the men to the work site, strict rules dictate that they will be shot without warning for attempting to escape if they move from their assigned spot. As the sun finally rises, the men are brought to a frigid power station that will serve as their shelter. The guards, in fur-lined parkas, hats and boots, leave the men, who huddle for warmth. The captain tries to keep the men from picking up dirty cigarette butts, but they warn him he has too much pride. Soon, they work together to secure the power station from cold, knowing this is their only hope for survival during the long work days ahead. Although they are allowed no firewood to keep warm or help melt the ice they must destroy with their pick-axes, Ivan and another man determine to scrounge some timber by digging out fence posts and devising a way to carry them back. The team leader pushes each group member to work hard, knowing that they must achieve certain goals or everyone will be denied food. After hours of work, they warm themselves inside and discuss their various crimes and sentences. Ivan explains that he was a soldier in 1942 when he was captured by the German army. He and four others managed to escape, but upon returning to Soviet lines, was arrested as a spy. He now conjectures that life in the camp is not the worst, as they have quiet lives and do not live among thieves and murderers. Later, at lunch, Ivan pilfers two extra bowls of soup, and although all the men eye the bowls hungrily, the team leader gives one to Ivan and the other to the captain. One team member, a filmmaker named Tsezar Markovich, has been assigned to the office for the day, and Ivan now brings his lunch to him, along the way pocketing a small piece of metal he finds. Tsezar is discussing Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein with another prisoner, and balks when the other man calls the famed director an opportunist, because he compromised his work for the politics of the time. Back at the power station, the team leader tells his story of surviving near-starvation and freezing in the army, and urges them to keep going. Hour after hour, the men work in pairs and compete to see who can build a wall the fastest. The prisoner foreman arrives to berate the team leader for using building materials to insulate the power station, but the men band together and threaten to kill the man if he informs on them. When darkness finally falls, the leader pushes them to continue working despite their exhaustion. Ivan and the team leader are the last to stop working, and must run to the lineup so they can be counted by the guards. One prisoner who has fallen asleep is saved from a beating by his own men, who hit him before the guards can. Afterward, a guard orders them at gunpoint to lay down in the snow. As the group trudges back to the barge, Ivan asks the captain where the moon goes after it sets, guessing that God breaks it up into stars to replace the fallen stars. Along the long, cold trek back to the prison, the captain reveals that after a month on a British naval cruiser, he was arrested as a spy. The team leader instructs the men to run back to the prison, hoping to beat the other teams and secure enough food for dinner. At the entrance, the guards inspect the prisoners’ coats, and Ivan is frightened that his piece of metal will be discovered but manages to pass the inspection. Although years earlier Ivan instructed his wife, whom he can barely remember, not to send him any packages, he still longs for one, and now promises Tsezar he will stand in line for him at the parcel office. When Tsezar shows up, he offers Ivan his dinner in return for saving his place. In the dining hall, the food is passed out, and the others watch forlornly as Ivan eats the double ration. They retire to the crowded barracks, where Ivan trades for some tobacco. A guard enters and, after commanding that the reports on the unauthorized extra shirts be written immediately, escorts the captain to the cells. The men are then called out for two more accountings, and Ivan helps Tsezar guard his parcel against thieves as they file in and out of the barracks. Alyosha urges Ivan to pray, but Ivan retorts that prayer is like complaining to authorities: either the message never gets through or it comes back marked rejected. Alyosha is undeterred, however, and cautions him to pray only for spiritual matters and to rejoice that here in captivity he is free to examine his soul. Just before bed, Tsezar gives Ivan some food from his parcel, and as he pulls up his thin blankets, Ivan shares the food with Alyosha. As the captain battles to stay warm in the bitterly cold cell, Ivan goes to sleep, content that the day, in which he avoided solitary confinement, ate extra porridge and did not fall ill, was a good one. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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