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First Circle

4 customer reviews

Additional DVD options Edition Discs
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(Dec 06, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

Joseph Stalin rules Russia through a brutal regime of terror and systematized torture.

Inside Mavrino Prison, the first circle of penal hell in Stalin’s Russia, the inmates – physicists, mathematicians, electrical engineers, technical experts – are forced to operate a scientific research center. The term of their sentence is undefined. A discovery useful to the government could mean freedom. A failure could mean a labor camp in Siberia.

From a phone booth on a dark Moscow street, a man makes a furtive and a hurried phone call to the American Embassy. His call is being recorded by The Ministry of Security for whom establishing the caller’s identity becomes a matter of mounting urgency.

At Mavrino, a voice print analysis machine is in late-stage development. The pressure to complete it becomes relentless. As tension, suspicion and the risk of betrayal mount, each scientist must struggle to retain his humanity in the face of overwhelming tyranny.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Robert Powell, Victor Garber, Dominic Raacke, Günther Maria Halmer, F. Murray Abraham
  • Directors: Sheldon Larry
  • Writers: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  • Format: Color, Content/Copy-Protected CD, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: KOCH VISION
  • DVD Release Date: December 6, 2005
  • Run Time: 180 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000BFJM3A
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,615 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "First Circle" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By givbatam3 on August 18, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
This film is based on Alexander Solzhenitsyn's famous novel of the same title. It is based on the story of a special prison designed for scientists who would carry out research supported by the state in which the conditions of incarceration were better than those in the hellish camps of the Gulag Archipelago. The father of the Soviet space program, Sergei Korolev, worked in a prison laboratory like the one depicted here.
The story depicts the different types of people who are caught in Stalin's world-prisoners, NKVD warders and "investigators", the priviledged Communist Party elite and common people outside the prisons who are just trying to survive. Among the prisoners there is the type who is an enthusiastic supporter of Stalin (he believes that his imprisonment is simply "a mistake"), the idealist who will not compromise his values even if this endangers himself, opportunists who inform on their fellow inmates in order to improve their own situation, and those who debate whether it is moral to help the tyrranical regime in order to increase their chances of release.
The problem with this film is its uneven quality, on the one hand it was filmed in Moscow and the scenes showing the prisons, the shabby side streets and the official goverment offices (which have pictures and busts of Stalin in every scene) give the film a feeling of authenticity. The directing is sometimes outstanding, particularly in scenes involving the wife of Gleb the idealist getting her annual half-hour visit with her husband and one with Innokenty being interrogated by an NKVD man. On the other hand, there are scenes involving NKVD officers and high officials in which they are portrayed as comical buffons with scenes taken straight out of "The Three Stooges".
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Collins on March 27, 2010
Format: DVD
I found this film to be both educational and entertaining. There are a few flaws but overall a worthwhile effort has gone into making this film is based on Alexander Solzhenitsyn's novel. The story is that of a group of scientists who for a vast range of reasons have been determined to be a threat to the Soviet state or an asset to the Soviet state, or both. This sense of irony regarding locking up dissident scientists as well as out spoken scientists as well as valuable scientists permeates the entire film and is meant to spill over into our impressions of the entire Soviet system. The story takes place in one of these designated prisoners for scientists, but of course due to the errors of bureaucracy, other types of prisoners are thrown into the mix. The purpose of these designated prisons is to work on scientific projects of value to the new and vulnerable Soviet state during the early years of the Cold War. These prisoners are treated to better conditions as compared to those poor individuals sent to other prison camps where they are worked to death in the Russian cold winter. There are ideological conflicts between the prisons as some are completely loyal to the Soviet state despite their incarceration and others are highly skeptical about the Soviet state and its motives. This tension between two friends and fellow scientists is the theme that runs through much of the film. One scientist believes his incarceration is a mistake and that he will soon be released and he believes in his heart in the most idealistic and lofty of the themes and philosophy of Communism. He is contrasted with his best friend and colleague who is highly skeptical of political power, especially that of the Communist regime in Russia, that has not lived up to any of the ideals written by Marx and Engels.Read more ›
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By J. Lovins HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 28, 2007
Format: DVD
Koch Vision present "FIRST CIRCLE" (1991) (187 mins/Color) (Dolby Digital) --- Under Sheldon Larry (Director), Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Author of Novel), Gabriel Yared (Film Score), Ron Orieux (Cinematographer), Serge Morache (assistant hair stylist), Stephen Benoit (assistant director), Leslie Grierson (third assistant director), Kim Karon (assistant art director), Sylvain Arseneault (boom operator), Luc Boudrias (sound re-recording mixer), Eric Rophe (sound), Raymond Vermette (dialogue editor), Mathieu Décary (first assistant camera), Jean-Yves Denis (grip), Stephen Benoit (assistant to director), Clifford De Spenser (dialogue coach) ------ the cast includes Robert Powell (Gleb Nershin), Victor Garber (Lew Rubin), Dominic Raacke (Nikolaj Schtschagow), Günther Maria Halmer (Wladimir Tschelnow), Christopher Plummer (Victor Abakumov), F. Murray Abraham (Staline), David Hemblen, David Hewlett ('Ruska' Rostislav), Heath Lamberts, Laurent Malet (Valadine Innokenti), Alexandra Stewart (Aletvina Makaraguine), Raf Vallone (Pyotr Makaraguine), Coraly Zahonero (Clara Makaraguine), Vernon Dobtcheff (Riyumin), Daniel Emilfork (Nikol), Corinne Touzet (Nadia Nerzhin), Robert Joy, Danute Kristo (Nina) ------ the story line takes place in a Soviet prison "Mavrino" December 1949, where a group of scientists work in this grim drama, one can interpret that the first circle includes not just the prison, but the whole uppercrust society of the Soviet Union, with Joseph Stalin as Satan overlooking his domain ... takes place in three days with interwoven characters that have struggling lives that will touch you in everyway ... surprise awaits the viewer as freedom is the price that is too high, even if betrayal is in the future ...Read more ›
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