From its title, 100 Minutes would seem to condense the concept of Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (the film’s Russian title makes this connection more explicit). Instead, decorated director Gleb Panfilov expands the seminal novella’s topics and scope. The film opens with Ivan fighting the invading Nazi army during World War II; he is captured as a prisoner of war, but upon his return he is accused of espionage and sentenced to ten years’ hard labour in Stalin’s gulag system. He and all his companions know their identical charge is false, but their only and best action is to survive each day. 

The film is 100 minutes long but, unlike the book, collects vignettes spanning years. The lighting and scenic design emphasise patriotic romanticism (in painted backdrops as the Soviet army mobilised in protection of their country) and the bleak, unforgiving reality of camp life (harsh white light off the snow – shadows are absent, and the lack of hiding is felt). As Ivan, Philipp Yankovsky refuses sensationalism, capturing the stoicism required to survive war and imprisonment with a keen interest in covert intellectual and spiritual conversations. 

By changing the fundamental structure of the story from one day’s trials and petty victories to a collection of unconnected gulag incidents, however, 100 Minutes fails to compel. The addition of Ivan’s shell- and mine-filled World War II experience is gratuitous, taking away from the compelling minutiae of freezing mortar and identification badges which must be re-painted daily. These tiny dehumanisations, and Ivan’s counter-plans to find comfort, feel an afterthought. 

100 Minutes is an imperfect adaptation that finds moments of beauty, but ultimately moves too quickly to sell the mundanity of Ivan’s degradation. With an ending that tips into sensationalism, the quiet dignity and outrage of Solzhenitsyn is lost. 



CAST: Philipp Yankovsky, Inna Churikoiva, Vladimir Eremin, Alexander Korotkov

DIRECTOR: Gleb Panfilov

WRITER: Gleb Panfilov

SYNOPSIS: Adapted from Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, 100 Minutes looks at one soldier’s experience as a World War II prisoner to a Soviet labour camp under Stalin.