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Ivan's Childhood (1962)

Ivanovo detstvo (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, War | 27 June 1963 (USA)
In WW2, twelve year old Soviet orphan Ivan Bondarev works for the Soviet army as a scout behind the German lines and strikes a friendship with three sympathetic Soviet officers.

Directors:

Andrei Tarkovsky (as Andrey Tarkovskiy), Eduard Abalov (uncredited)

Writers:

Vladimir Bogomolov (story "Ivan") (as V. Bogomolov), Vladimir Bogomolov (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Nikolay Burlyaev ... Ivan Bondarev (as Kolya Burlyaev)
Valentin Zubkov ... Leonid Kholin (as V. Zubkov)
Evgeniy Zharikov ... Galtsev (as Ye. Zharikov)
Stepan Krylov ... Katasonov (as S. Krylov)
Nikolay Grinko ... Gryaznov (as N. Grinko)
Dmitri Milyutenko ... Old Man (as D. Milyutenko)
Valentina Malyavina ... Masha (as V. Malyavina)
Irina Tarkovskaya ... Ivan's Mother (as I. Tarkovskaya)
Andrey Konchalovskiy ... Soldier with glasses (as A. Konchalovskiy)
Ivan Savkin ... (as I. Savkin)
Vladimir Marenkov ... (as V. Marenkov)
Vera Miturich ... Girl
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Storyline

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 Mattias Thuresson

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Soviet Union | Ukraine

Language:

Russian | German

Release Date:

27 June 1963 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ivan's Childhood See more »

Filming Locations:

Dnieper River, Kanev, Ukraine

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This movie was Andrei Tarkovsky's first major film. See more »

Goofs

When Kholin and Galtsev take Ivan across the river in the boat, a tree into the water falls near them. It is supposed to be because of the military action taking place, but it can be seen that the base of the tree has been sawn across in a straight line. See more »

Quotes

Ivan's Mother: If a well is really deep, you can see a star down there even in the middle of a sunny day.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Life as a Dream (2007) See more »

Soundtracks

Ne velyat Mashe
[Song played on the gramophone. English translation: "Masha is not allowed beyond the river".]
See more »

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User Reviews

 
a powerful piece of poetic film-making for the disillusionment, and disorientation, surrounding young Ivan
23 August 2007 | by MisterWhiplashSee all my reviews

Ivan's Childhood, Andrei Tarkovsky's first substantial feature as director (he previously made a short of the Killers, and a 45 minute student film), is a near-masterpiece of adolescence shredded to pieces in subjective perception. It's set in world war 2, with 12 year old Ivan's family killed by the Nazis and his alliance with the Russian soldiers as a scout able to sneak past into small spaces more to do with vengeance than real patriotism. By the time we see him he's a torn figure, someone who at 12 looks and acts like he's already come of age, by force, and that this deep down has left him in a disparaging state of mind, pushing it away through temper (he won't go to military school, he tells his superiors), and only with the slightest escape through dreams.

But in these dreams he's also tormented by his past, in fragments that hint to the psychological trauma through abstractions, of a splash of water hitting across the dead body of his mother while Ivan is at the bottom of a well, or in the natural and happy surroundings of a truck carrying fruits. One sees in this the only spots of innocence left in Ivan's life, the pinnacle (and one of Tarkovsky's most breathtaking scenes ever filmed) the final dream on the beach with Ivan and his sister running along the sand. In this nature, smiling faces, the filtering of the background of the forest, Ivan's Childhood is starkly incredible.

The 'real' world as depicted, to be sure, is jagged, torn apart, in dark marshes and forests and with trenches dug for a long while and flares and cannon fire always in the air. It seems almost not to be entirely real, or as real as should be 100% truthful to battlefronts. But it's also, for the most part (sometimes it shifts to the adult soldiers like Kholin and Galtzev), through Ivan's point of view, and so this world around him that is ripped to shreds and bullet-strewn and deadened is amplified a little.

There's a curious, evocative scene where Ivan, left alone in a dark floor of a house with a flashlight, goes around looking at the messages scribbled frantically as final notes from partisans, and it veers in-between dream and reality, where it could go either way depending on Ivan's mental state, as fragile as his physical condition. He finally bursts into tears, exhausted. It's this wild meddling with what Ivan sees or experiences or thinks and secretly fears through his would-be tough exterior that makes him so compelling and heartbreaking, as played by Kolya Burlyayev with a sharp level of bravery- not even Jean-Pierre Leaud was this absorbing, albeit on different dramatic terrain.

It's a given that it was not Tarkovsky's project to start with, and, ala Kubrick and Spartacus, came in after a director had been let go to finish the picture. While it is remarkable to see how Tarkovsky does make it his vision, and quite an ambitious one considering how expansive the production design gets and the technical daring taken with his director of photography Vadim Yusov, and how there's a fresh and often original (eg dream scenes, placement of the camera, the scene in the post-war house looking at the records of the departed) perspective that no one else would have given it, there are small parts of the story that could have been dealt with a little better, edited, or cut out altogether.

The character of Masha (played practically with one expression- practically cause of the moment after she is kissed- on her face) is a little unnecessary, or rather more of a means for Tarkovsky to practice some technical ideas in the forest scene, which really leads nowhere, and how her reemergence later in the film also doesn't serve much of a purpose. Maybe there's a point to be made about women in the army at the time, as she's an object of desire less much of an effective nurse, but when seeing her scenes (which aren't bad exactly) one wants to get back to Ivan and the central plot.

But, as mentioned, one has to know that as a Tarkovsky picture what doesn't work doesn't matter so much as what does, and Ivan's Childhood is often staggering in its depiction of the brutality on the mind and consciousness, not just through Ivan but through his adult counterparts, and about how in a time when life can be taken away in an instant, almost without a sound, clinging to a past, however surreal, is all that can matter. There's truths reached about the devastation of war on the young, and those who care for them, that wouldn't be in a more naturalistic setting, and it's Tarkovsky's triumph that he steers it into the realm of a consistent, poetic nightmare narrative.


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