Monday, September 08, 2008

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Päivä Ivan Denisovitshin elämässä / En dag i Ivan Denisovitsj' liv. GB/NO 1970. PC: Group W Films LLC / Leontes / Norsk Film. P+D: Caspar Wrede. SC: Ronald Harwood - based on the novella Один день Ивана Денисовича (1962) by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. DP: Sven Nykvist - Eastmancolor. Starring Tom Courtenay (Ivan Denisovich Shukhov). Original in English. 105 min. Print without subtitles. Memorial screening of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) in the presence of the Wrede family in Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 8 September 2008. - A fine print with colour intact. - The film had no premiere in Finland, as it was banned during the Cold War. - I revisited the first reel of the film. It shows the morning of the day in the grim Stalinist concentration camp after WWII, Ivan Denisovich's sickness, the appalling food. - I remember first having read Solzhenitsyn at the age of 16 in 1971, it was The First Circle. Solzhenitsyn's books had been published so far in the most prestigious books series, the Yellow Library of the Tammi company. Reading Solzhenitsyn was very moving, but I knew about the Gulag already from other books, even from left-wing memoirs, and the theme was well represented in the media, particularly in the main newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. The banning of the film was ludicrous, an insult to the liberty of freedom and it certainly contributed to a general hatred of the Soviet Union. - In the 1970s Solzhenitsyn's most famous book, The Gulag Archipelago, was not published in Finnish by Tammi but by Wahlström & Widstrand in Stockholm (the first volume) and Kustannuspiste in Tampere (the rest). It was easily available in Finland. - It has been stated that Solzhenitsyn's books contributed decisively to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Certainly so, but as Solzhenitsyn's books focused on the crimes of the Stalin era, also officially condemned by the USSR, one might add that the persecution, banning and exile of Solzhenitsyn weighed even more. - The noble Wrede family dates to 13th century Germany, and since the 17th century it has been prominent in Finland. - The age of political bans of films in Finland ended with the glasnost of the USSR in the 1980s. Finnish film censorship was abolished in 2001.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to hear more about Finnish bans on movies like this.

You know, if I told someone that Finland stopped banning anti-communist movies at the time of glasnost, they'd probably think, "This idiot thinks Finland was in the USSR!"

So much for the myth of "The Brave Finns Standing Up To The Soviets."

BTW, the Soviets didn't criticize communism/gulags etc. They excused it all as "Stalinist excesses." Solzhenytsin was banned and exiled for identifying Lenin and communism and the Communist Party as evil. I read an interview where he said the communists after Stalin tried to blame all problems on Stalin, and one of his missions was to show that the Stalin just took advantage of the rot that was already there before Stalin took over.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite books, and movies.

I wish Sol. had written more short novels.

In a similar vein, Nabakov's Pnin is perhaps his bst an most modest book.

I guess Russians love to write "The Great Russian Novel About Life And Death And Everything!"