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Ivan's Childhood - Criterion Collection
Ivan's Childhood - Criterion Collection
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
UR     2007     1hr 35min

The debut feature from the great Andrei Tarkovsky, Ivan?s Childhood is an evocative, poetic journey through the shadows and shards of one boy?s war-torn youth. Moving back and forth between the traumatic realities of WWII ...  more »


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Movie Details

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Classics, Military & War
Studio: Criterion
Format: DVD - Black and White,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 07/24/2007
Original Release Date: 06/27/1963
Theatrical Release Date: 06/27/1963
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 1hr 35min
Screens: Black and White,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 12
Edition: Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English, German, Russian

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Movie Reviews

More conventional that Andrei's later work, but still essent
Grigory's Girl | NYC | 06/06/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This is Andrei Tarkovsky's first feature film, and it's wonderful. It doesn't have the epic feel of grandeur and astonishment of his later work, and it's quite conventional compared to the mystery and ambiguity of films like Solaris and Stalker, but it's still very good and has to be seen by anyone who loves Tarkovsky, Russian cinema, and cinema in general. The film was not actually instigated by Tarkovsky himself. The original director had quit/got fired, and the production was going to be shut down. Tarkovsky, fresh out of the Soviet film school, took the film on, and made it his own. I'm glad that Criterion is releasing this, as earlier VHS and laserdisc copies weren't the greatest transfers, and some material had been cut (mostly the stock WWII footage that Tarkovsky used at the end of the film). For those who don't like Tarkovsky later, lengthy, abstract films, you may like this one, as it is much more straightforward, but still definitely a Tarkovsky film."
Tarkovsky's very interesting debut feature..
Stalwart Kreinblaster | Xanadu | 07/27/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Exploring new techniques against an older framework, ivan's childhood may not have the same feel as other tarkovsky films but the stylistic innovation is still present especially in the dream sequences and in the interesting ways that water is photographed which would become a very prominent feature in his later movies as well..
It is actually a very remarkable movie and one that the world took notice of (including ingmar bergman who was influenced a lot by this movie)..
This is the work of a young director experimenting with a new cinematic technique.. The results are very interesting and Ivan's childhood remains a classic of 60's cinema.."
Death Wish
Ermite | California | 09/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a DVD to own. "Ivan's Childhood" is Tarkovsky's first and arguably his most famous film. Based on Vladimir Bogomolov's early novella, "Ivan" (that is, "John") (1957), the film achieved wide acclaim outside Russia. It was produced at the risky time when Premier Khrushchev's era was ending and fundamentalist Marxists were ascendant again, restricting freedom in the arts; it is, as one observer wrote, "one of the harshest, morally complex versions of the war in Soviet film." It won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival. With this debut film, Tarkovsky established an international reputation that has influenced many other filmmakers.

Except for this novella, Bogomolov is not widely known outside Russia. However, it was translated and anthologized widely around the world. Look for Bernard Isaac's translation into British English. It has the atmosphere of reality. It is punctuated it with references to real places, the Dnieper River, the town Gomel, where Ivan was born, and the Trostyanets death camp; even official Red Army and SS documents have an authentic flavor.

The novella is told in the first person narrative of a Red Army lieutenant. Ivan is about 12 and a "scout", or reconnaissance spy, sneaking across the swampy Dnieper River into the night and behind German lines. The war made him an orphan and filled him with maddening hatred and desperation for revenge. He has been with partisans, in a death camp, and wounded by friendly fire returning from a mission one night. The soldiers are amazed he's been through so much.

There is the pun, of course: Ivan's last name is Bondarev, Ivan Bondarev, that is, John Bond. In the story, it's an intelligence cover name. However, Ian Flemming's first James Bond novels appeared in the early fifties before "Ivan" was published. It may be coincidental, and probably only of interest to Western readers.

Writers often insert their own lives and experiences into their writings, and Bogomolov served in the Red Army in World War II and in intelligence. I do not know if Bogomolov based Ivan on any real person that he may have met or learned about. I guess we can only speculate about Ivan, yet a child working as a war-time spy seems plausible to me. After all, in the desperate chaos at the close of the war, Germany mobilized the Hitler Youth and insurgent units called Werewolves. There is plenty of historical evidence pointing to child combatants throughout history as well as in current events. We recall that Baden-Powell, who created the Boy Scouts, was a former soldier and spy, and the crafts of scouting are important reconnoitering skills used in war. The world is as morally conflicted as ever.

Though he argued with Tarkovsky about the way his story was filmed, like all authors, I think Tarkovsky's approach was correct, considering the demands and possibilities of the cinemagraphic medium. This Criterion Edition of the film is cleaned up with a high definition digital transfer. There is a new subtitle translation. The highlight of the features is the interview with Nicholai (Kolya) Burlyaev, who portrayed Ivan. He reminisces how he was cast at 14 and how the film was made.

The film follows the novella closely, though it takes a more objective viewpoint and enters Ivan's troubled dreams, which make striking imagery. It is tragic poetry whereas the novella is matter-of-fact. Here, Ivan is somewhat bratty and hot tempered. Though he is a child scout, I think the film suggests that he may not be the only one. He knows his trade-craft and takes it very seriously. Still, no one seems overly concerned (in either film or story) that a child is a war-time spy. Frankly, he insists on doing it. Ivan's only friends are the soldiers who want to care for him (after the war)or send him to school but do not object to his missions.

The film, shot on location at the Dnieper River, is pregnant with dramatic, almost heavy-handed imagery and symbolism. There is the first metaphor of crossing the river. Then there is the metaphor of the dead tree. It's his extraction point where Sgt. Katasonov waits for him to bring him ashore to safety. But, Ivan misses the rendezvous because of German patrols and must swim further away. Here, one metaphor abuts another. At the end, following Ivan's last mission, Tarkovsky re-introduces the dead tree metaphor as Ivan races laughing on a beach, perhaps in whatever kind of dream that may have come for him. There are other interpretations, and this one satisfies me now. At the end of the day, we have Bogomolov's poignant story enhanced by Tarkovsky's uncompromising, haunting vision.
A Different Slant on War Movies
Snow Leopard | Urbana, IL | 10/18/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This film marks the debut of what was to become one of filmmaking's greatest directors, Andrei Tarkovsky. While he had already directed "The Steamroller & the Violin" as part of his graduation from film studies, this was his first foray into a full-length film.

What other reviewers do not note about this film is the interesting angle it presents on the theme of war. The movie's namesake, Ivan (a name selected to generically mean any Russian boy), is not simply an innocent who suffers the horrors of war, but is an aggressive, generally confident and committed scout, dedicated to eradicting the German presence in his beloved Russia. After some idyllic opening shots, we see the 12-year-old Ivan ordering around the military man he is put in the care of. The scene is distinctively striking, as is the subsequent narrative arc that traces Ivan's involvement as a scout along the front. If you are familiar with another excellent Russian war film centered around a young man, "Come and See" (by Elem Klimov), then you will certainly recognize some of the roots of that movie in this one.

In general, this is one of the most narrative-driven of Tarkovsky's movies. Later in his career, he seems to have raised the technique of making content match style to the highest pitch; here, the story is clearly dominating how he films his scenes, sometimes experimentally rotating the camera, utilizing defamiliarizing angles, and running alongside actors during tracking shots. One very notable difference from his later films is the speed of many shots. Here, Tarkovsky tends to opt either for a still camera in static scenes, or to quickly moving shots. There is very little of the excruciatingly slow ballet or creep-pans that mark his later work. This is not a merit or defect of "Ivan's Chilldhood," necessarily, but one can certainly sense a younger director exploring the possibilities of technique in this film in a way that his other films do not reflect.

It is interesting to note what one reviewer points out below, that Tarkovsky was not the original director for this film. It would be interesting to know if any footage from the original director is retained in the finished version. Visually, one might make a case for this considering how starkly different the filming is between Ivan's pre-War and during-War childhood are. The colors, the lighting, even to the point of looking colorized and somewhat artificial, make a very vivid contrast with the plain, stark black and white of the military encampment's interiors, or the gorgeous austerity of the birch trees. All the same, the contrast could still simply be Tarkovsky pointing out the differences of pre-War, and post-War childhood.

Throughout, there are numerous striking shots (the falling bucket, reverse shots filmed in water, the filming in the birch trees, a severe up angle on Ivan as he walks, and especially the particularly compelling final crane shot, where Ivan overtakes his sister and runs along the edge of the ocean), the acting is excellent, and the story is striking enough that it still deserves to be heard.

This is not Tarkovsky's "Mirror" or "Stalker" (both of which I cannot recommend enough), but neither should it be. Serious film viewers should certainly be familiar with all of Tarkovsky's work, and it would no doubt be interesting to start here, with his first film. Definitely worth viewing."