During World War II, 12-year old Ivan works as a spy on the eastern front. The small Ivan can cross the German lines unnoticed to collect information. Three Soviet officers try to take care... See full summary »
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During World War II, 12-year old Ivan works as a spy on the eastern front. The small Ivan can cross the German lines unnoticed to collect information. Three Soviet officers try to take care of this boy-child. Written by
Tarkovsky appeared dismissive of this, his first feature, saying it was the sort of project dreamed up in film school pool halls. It was not a film he himself instigated, but it cannot for a moment be described as uncommitted or pedestrian. It most closely resembles some of the other 'names' in purely artistic cinema of the day in terms of formal style, Tarkovsky having not at that point worked out his own unique and so far inimitable 'style', if that's the right word. The dream sequence with the apples, though brilliantly done, seems derivative. He never used optical flourishes like that again.
Tarkovsky believed a great deal of editing for the audience was vulgar and inimitable to great art, but this film is quite structured and conventional compared to his later slower and arguably more obscure works. The key performance comes from Ivan himself, a fine effort from one so young, and indeed Tarkovsky used him again in the bell section of Andrei Rublev; although he used rather harsh methods to get the performance he wanted in that case. Obviously influenced by Dreyer, you see the beginnings of Andrei's obsession with water and it's reflective calm around more tempestuous events. His use of black and white stock in terms of lighting is exemplary.
The film's title is ironic as Ivan does not have a childhood, but the films majestic and moving final shot suggests that Ivan does receive a kind of immortality beyond the bleak finality of his discovered photo in Berlin, that the Russian spirit itself cannot be stifled and will ultimately run free.
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