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Russia 1962
Directed by
Andrei Tarkovsky
97 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Ivan's Childhood

It is ironic that Tarkovsky’s first feature is only limited by the one factor that most cinema audiences would find wanting in a Tarkovsky film - a linear, relatively conventional narrative - even if this can be attributed to the fact that Tarkovsky inherited the project after a previous aborted attempt and was under pressure to finish the film as soon as possible.

Time is, of course, of the essence with Tarkovsky but it is not of the strictly chronological type  - it involves the non-linear dimensions of  memory and dream but also a more profound sense of the simultaneity of past and present. These elements are certainly here, as is Tarkovsky’s ever-present water, but they are constrained by the cleaving to the story (the screenplay was by Vladimir Bogomolov from his own novella) of the young orphan lad of the title working as a scout on the Russian Front during WWII.

Even if this is told in a relatively traditional form, Tarkovsky’s mise-en-scène with its evidently Wellesian influence, beautifully realized by Vadim Yusov’s cinematography makes this a visually impressive film.  Whilst these purely cinematic effects are closet to Tarkovsky’s heart, he does not lose sight of the story’s moral impetus as a portrait of the tragedy of war, deftly interpellating archival footage into his fictional narrative to create a telling illustration of the shameful waste of war and the innocence lost.

FYI: The film won the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion in the year of its release.




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