Wednesday, 11 January 2017

I've Just Seen: Ivan's Childhood (1962)

 Director: Andrei Tarkovsky

For such a small filmography, Tarkovsky managed to make all the films he made count. Of his eight full length films, four feature on the 1001+ list; the only reason I can account for Ivan's Childhood's absence is that the list is only meant to give you a taste of a director's output. The story follows a young boy called Ivan, during World War II in Russia. He has become involved in army work after the death of the rest of his family.

This was Tarkovsky's first full length film, and few director have emerged so wonderfully developed. The story is filled with flashbacks and dream sequences (and sometimes it is hard to tell the difference), yet they slip into the modern story well, enhancing the nightmarish quality of the setting. The cinematography is beautiful. The film is set in darkened rooms and swamps (and one memorable scene in a forest), and the black-and-white stock emphasises the dankness of war-torn Russia.

This is arguably Tarkovsky's most accessible film, with a setting and emotions that are understandable, and have been tackled in films before. Yet it also gives you a flavour of this daring director who interrogated the Soviet Union and Russia's past. As in other Tarkovsky films, characters are at the forefront, yet perhaps because Ivan is a child, his motivations are clearer to us. We find ourselves immersed in this very adult world through the perspective of a child who has seen horrible things, yet who also retains an innocent naivety about the power he has. The last scene of the film is a tragic reminder the lost childhoods of many children as a result of war, sadly something still relevant today.

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