"At a slender 90 minutes, Tarkovsky packs in a lot of story into a richly thematic and detailed piece of work"
Released on Blu-ray on Monday is Ivan’s Childhood, the debut feature of veteran Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. Although Tarkovsky had made three official student films beforehand, this 1962 release truly announced him as the influential visionary he would wind up being known as.
Ivan is a 12 year old boy who joins a Russian partisan regime during the second world war to work as a scout behind enemy lines. As things get more and more dangerous, Ivan is pulled from duty but remains intent on his own personal mission – to avenge the death of his family at the hands of the Nazis.
The most remarkable thing is just how assured and complete a film this is - it really doesn’t feel like a director finding his feet, but one that knows exactly what he wants and why. The stunning opening in which the camera tracks Ivan as he floats dreamlike above the trees – as if at one with nature – sets the tone quite beautifully.
Dreams and visions play a key part as Tarkovsky utilises them to portray Ivan’s backstory demonstrate an innocence long since ripped away by the horrors of war. As the title would suggest, this is very much a tale of war seen through the eyes of a child, made wise beyond his years by the violence and having had his young innocence and beauty ripped away and left as desolate and as forgotten as the shell-shocked landscape.
At a slender 90 minutes, Tarkovsky packs in a lot of story into a richly thematic and detailed piece of work that, as a result, has aged remarkably well. The wars global elements are almost a supporting character; a backdrop to Ivan’s journey. A film and a filmmaker to be cherished, discussed and admired for years to come.