Andrei Tarkovsky made just 7 feature films in his life, and it was the marvelous war-time drama Ivan’s Childhood that begun the celebrated (albeit not-so-prolific) journey of the Russian master filmmaker while also eliciting superlative praise from Bergman. Harrowing and poetic in equal measures, this was yet another fascinating addition to the pantheon of memorable movies made at the backdrop of WWII. This is the tale of the eponymous 12-year old boy (Kolya Burlayayev) whose process of growing up has been accelerated on account of the raving war that has engulfed his home as well as his family, thus emphasizing the bitter irony of the film’s title. His burning hatred for the Nazis, coupled with his ability to remain under the radar while entering into hostile enemy territory, has made him a key resource for the Russian army in order to collect information. Tarkovsky brilliantly juxtaposed the harrowing and war-ravaged reality with lyrical, melancholic, and at times, grotesque dream sequences, in order to present a heartbreaking account of the horrors and futility of wars. Though Ivan is the principal protagonist, the point-of-view regularly jumped to two other characters as well – the seemingly brusque but essentially humane Captain Kholin (Valentin Zubkov), and a young stone-faced lieutenant harboring feelings for a pretty young medic. The stark monochrome photography, exquisite usages of shadows and silhouettes, and canted camera angles, added a dash of expressionistic touch to the film’s bleak visuals of the devastated landscape, while the alternatingly lilting and jarring score did a great job at complementing the dream-reality duality that the director played with.
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Genre: Drama/War Drama/Psychological Drama
Country: Russia (erstwhile Soviet Union)