Rescued from Russian film archives this was Andrei Tarkovsky's diploma film for the Soviet State Film School. Before this video release it was largely unseen even by some of the director's most fervent admirers. The story ... more »is a warm yet ironic one about the unlikely friendship between a young boy who loves to play the violin and a steamroller driver. In this simple yet deeply affecting early film you can already appreciate the emerging talent of an artist who would go on to create some of the most profound works of world cinema. The film was co-written by Tarkovsky's fellow student Andrei Konchalovsky. In Russian with English subtitles.System Requirements:Running Time: 43 mins.Format: DVD MOVIE Genre: FOREIGN/LATIN UPC: 736899040222 Manufacturer No: DV67514« less
"The Steamroller and The Violin is a 43-minute featurette made in 1960. It is in color, in Russian (with clear English subtitles), and in very good condition for a long-archived film. The DVD Special Features are (1) a 2-page filmography and (2) a 12-page biography of the director, Andrei Tarkovsky. The biography is somewhat difficult to read but has many points of interest such as this reference that "the 50-minute film helped the young director complete his program (of film studies) with honors".
The central characters are a young boy, Sasha, and a steamroller-operator, Sergei. Sasha has studied the violin for two years but his musical talent/sensibilities set him apart from other boys of his age. It is the bullying intimidation of Sasha by these boys that bring Sasha into contact with Sergei, an adult whom the bullying children fear/respect. The affinity between Sasha and Sergei moves beyond the linear storyline and there is value in viewing them as one and the same person at two different levels of artistic experience i.e. the two parts of the divide between artistic imagination/ability and the practical discipline. Be that as it may, on the basic story level, Sasha the boy and Segei the man are divided by age, social purpose, personal abilities, etc; yet, these two very different people add nourishment, warmth, confidence, and recognition of personal value to each other's life.
As the DVD biography points out, there are many parallels between the story and the life/career of the director. For example, this was Tarkovsky's diploma film. This has immediate parallel with Sasha going to a violin examination. Then, there is the parallel between Tarkovsky's opinions on Soviet film institutions and the examiner in this movie who all but brings young Sasha's attempt at playing to a standstill; she even sends him away with a rather rueful evaluation that he has "too much imagination"! Later, to Sergei, Sasha ably shows the natural depth of his musical knowledge and talent (while Tarkovsky simultaneously shows his acceptance of his own genius; regardless of what Soviet authorities may think!). The parallels between Sasha and Tarkovsky create a music and dialog all of their own!
Equally, just as Sergei when hearing Sasha play, the viewer will effortlessly find this warm, charming, and intelligent movie shine like a symphony of loving praise for mutual human respect and its affinity with individual/artistic freedom!
To close, I can only agree with the DVD cover note that this featurette "clearly marks Tarkovsky as the great cinematic genius he would become with such films as Andrei Rublev, Solaris, and The Mirror". A truly wonderful multi-faceted gem of a movie, a delightful set of actors, and a true joy to view!"
Short and sweet!
Kelly L. Norman | Plymouth, MI United States | 07/24/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Andrei Tarkovsky's (Solaris, The Mirror) diploma film is a 43-minute day-in-the-life of a little Russian boy. Sasha's only thought in the morning is to make it to his violin exam without encountering his peers at the bottom of his apartment stairwell. When the other kids grab his violin case, teasing him and tossing it into the air, Sergei the steamroller (looking for all the world like he just stepped off a poster saying "Workers of the World, Unite!"), tells them to buzz off and earns Sasha's sunny friendship for the rest of the film. At the exam, Sasha plays beautifully but his teacher is more interested in form and order, so he sullenly heads back home. Back at the apartment block, where Sergei and his female coworker are paving a square, Sergei allows Sasha to help him, and serves as sort of a male mentor for Sasha....a role otherwise left out of the movie for the boy, who lives with his mother and sister. They go to lunch together and watch a wrecking ball destroy a decrepite building to reveal a beautiful cathedral-like building behind it. They trade stories: Sergei tells Sasha about fighting in the war, and Sasha plays his violin. At one point when they see a child bullying a younger one, Sergei encourages Sasha to intervene. Plans for the odd couple to meet to see a movie that are sabotaged by Sasha's mother, his attempts to escape, and a dream sequence filmed by a handheld camera held high above Sasha running after a steamroller, makes one wonder if the intergenerational friendship is carried on beyond the idyllic day. There are a few treats in this movie. Igor Fomchenko, who plays Sasha, evokes emotion without being overly precocious. Zamansky, who plays Sergei, also shows a real affection for the child. No doubt Tarkovsky's direction has something to do with this as well. And there is some mystery in some of the themes Tarkovsky repeats in the film. I found it interesting that water played a significant role...frequently Sasha was shown walking along the pier or puddle; at one point Sergei lifts him over a puddle; Sasha gets lost temporarily during a rainstorm. Water also permeates the final "dream sequence".Of course, this is a 1962 USSR film. Which means two things. It's going to drag along if you're expecting something like the latest Hollywood caper; and it had to get past Mosfilm with a little bit of agitprop. But the film lasts only 43 minutes, and in Tarkovsky's case, I think he got by for the propoganda with the cute steamroller and a wreckingball. Fun to watch, and beautifully filmed."
Scott68 | Columbus, Ohio United States | 12/02/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This sublime 40 minute movie with subtitles is set in Russia during the 1960's. The movie is filled with the contrasts of a warlike steamroller and the beauty of a sweet violin.The plot revolves around a young violinist afraid to confront a bunch of bullies who torment him and make fun of his musical art. One day the boy meets a macho steamroller worker named Sergi and the two share a brief friendship. Insight about the history of Russia is seen as Sergi talks about fighting in the war at age seven and the fact that bread is very scarce. A small degree of insight about the art of a violinist is seen when the boy goes to his teacher and she makes him play to perfection despite performances filled with "imagination" as opposed to rhythmic precision. The boy layer states that mastery of the violin takes a whole life to perfect and in doing so, one can begin to see how much work it takes to become a great soloist.Sergi allows the boy to drive the steamroller and the bullies watch with much jealousy. Later in the movie, Sergi tells the boy to stick up for another boy being picked on. The boy gets beaten badly but learns not to be afraid, to confront his fears and in doing so the boy learns how to be a man."
Amazing, considering it's a student film....
Grigory's Girl | NYC | 07/05/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Many great filmmakers rarely show their student work (if they have any). Even the great Kubrick, whose first film Fear and Desire is impossible to find, refused to have his first film shown widely (he called it a failed student exercise). But here is Andrei Tarkovsky's "diploma" film (as they called it in the USSR). It is wonderful. It's not Solaris, Rublev, or Stalker, but it's still worth watching over and over again. Tarkovsky was already showing his great individuality with this film. Usually student diploma films were 25 minutes and in black and white. Tarkovsky's film is 50 minutes and is in colour. The relationship between the child and the construction worker is very well done and believable, without any trace of sentimentality that always occurs in films with children (especially in American ones). When watching this, you could tell how talented Tarkovsky was. He's the rare filmmaker that never made a bad film."
In the beginning
Galina | Virginia, USA | 02/19/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Andrei Tarkovsky's school graduation project, the short film Katok i Skripka or Steamroller and the Violin (1960), by the words of Russian critic Maya Turovskaya, the first rate film, is promise of the things that would come so powerfully in his later films. The most important part of the litle film was the joy of showing the beauty and poetry of the ordinary familiar things. The whole world of the film is saturated in colors, filled by myriads of playful solar spots, mirror reflections (yes, mirror - one of the favorite Tarkovsky's images is already presented here), patches of light on water, all living, pulsing, sparkling. Tarkovsky's camera man, the famous cinematographer Vadim Yusov recalls that the idea of the film came to young director after watching the French short film "Red Balloon" (1956) by Albert Lamorisse that ran successfully in the theaters at the time. "Red Balloon" defined the color palette of Tarkovsky's movie. The dominant color for Katok i Skripka was red mixed with yellow and compared to blue in the sky above and in the clothing of two main characters, the young boy playing violin and the grown up man, the driver of a steamroller, who had became his friend, even if for a short time.
I'd say that the first Tarkovsky's work is perhaps his most accessible, light, sweet, and warm - the terms we don't usually associate with the master of serious metaphysical, deeply philosophical, even cosmic films that lack conventional dramatic structure. I think it would be a good starting point for anyone interested in Tarkovsky's work. It is interesting to compare Katok i Skripka to Tarkovsky's next work, his first feature, asounding Ivanovo Detstvo (Ivan's Childhood), another film about a boy but completely different from Steamroller and the Violin
For his diploma project, Andrei Tarkovsky won the first prize at the New York Student Film Festival in 1961."