7:4:12 Ivan's Childhood by Tarkovsky

Recently I watched Ivan's Childhood on DVD, the first feature film by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky from 1962. Apparently, MOSFILM gave Tarkovsky the chance to resuscitate a movie that had stalled out. Although he stepped into a film begun by another director, Ivan's Childhood has all the signature style of Tarkovsky: the metaphysical poet of images and an explorer of subjective consciousness.

What Tarkovsky shows from the point-of-view of twelve-year-old Ivan is the particular cruelty war visits upon children: a poignant loss of innocence with irony implicit in the film's title.

Tarkovsky explores the dramatic tension of this antiwar premise by interspersing wartime scenes near the Russian front in the Great Patriotic War (WWII) with Ivan's daydreams of an earlier childhood.

[ivan's childhood]

Young Ivan escapes to be among a Russian company at the front. As a volunteer scout, Ivan offers his smallness as less noticeable by Germans. Shot among spartan interiors, swampy birchlands, and unnatural landscape mayhem, the war scenes contrast with the daydream scenes Tarkovsky calls up, giving us Ivan's memory of what war irrevocably took away.

All the innocence of childhood spills forth: slow, gray-tonal shots of the natural beauty that is rural life: bountiful crops, gentle livestock, and, of course, the loved ones of family.

But why does Ivan insist on being at the front in war, fully in harm's way? Tarkovsky shows Ivan has a relentless toughness. Ivan talks back to adult soldiers and is no obedient comrade. Something stronger powers Ivan's quest. More than lost childhood, nothing less than vengeance powers Ivan's true motivation.

As I said, Tarkovsky's mastery in cinema is his ability to bridge objective, expressionist reality (dialogue, gestures, props) and take us into the interior space of subjectivity. Ivan's Childhood succeeds in that way--at a level that invites comparisons with Truffaut's 400 Blows for its masterful evocation of childhood innocence lost.

Tarkovsky is better known in America for Solaris, the "Russian 2001," answering Kubrick's 1968 masterpiece ("Hal, please open the pod door.").

Alas, I watched Kubrick's 2001 recently, also on DVD. While I thought Hal and the technology looked amazingly fresh after 45 years, the storyline seemed thin and more an occasion for pioneering visual effects. This second viewing of 2001 convinced me I had to revisit Tarkovsky's Solaris. Now that's a space film with heft and metaphysical soul!

Read more ...

(click to enlarge image)

The Cat at Light's End

Read the story collection, The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

.mobi (Kindle)
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)

more posts

7:25:13 Le Havre by Kaurismaki
7:20:13 This Ain't California
6:27:13 The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking, a book review
5.29.13 My Linux (Mis)Adventures
5.25.13 Southern Cross the Dog, a book review
5.5.13 Russian Tumbleweed
4:16:13 "The Machine Stops" by E. M. Forster
3.26.13 Camera-rama
3.25.13 Moore's Law
3:13:13 Grocery Shopping 
2:28:13 Razor Blade in Moonlight
1:27:13 Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design, a book review
1:6:13 Alleys
12:9:12 White Bread, a book review
12:4:12 Update on Old-School Shaving
11:12:12 Ten Great Buys at Dollar Tree
11:6:12 My New Russian Camera
10:29:12 Leaf Day
10:2:12 The Russian Navy in New York?
9:21:12 The Righteous Mind, a book review
9:14:12 Revolution, 1989, a book review
8:23:12 Train Whistles in the Night
8:2:12 Why I've Stockpiled Light Bulbs
7:22:12 Old-School Shaving
7:16:12 Злектроника МК-52, computer de minimus
7:4:12 Ivan's Childhood by Tarkovsky
6:21:12 The Unabomber, a modern Thoreau?
6:12:12 Do the gods exist?
6:7:12 My "Retail Therapy"
5:28:12 On Taxes, We Should Go Green
5:17:12 Portland's Trash
5:6:12 The Toaster Project, a book review
4:24:12 No Seconds
4:12:12 Portland's Runaway Utility Bill
4:8:12 The Repossession, a book review
3:30:12 How I Got Published in Mississippi Review
3:18:12 Rothko
3:9:12 The End of Money, a book review
3:1:12 gutenberg.org
2:18:12 Beauty Plus Pity, a book review
2:5:12 Kirk's Castile Soap
1:29:12 Confessions of a Fallen Standard-Bearer, a book review
1:22:12 Thirst, a book review
1:17:12 My IBM ThinkPad 1999-2012
1:11:12 String Beans
12:22:11 Spiritual TMJ
12:16:11 1Q84, a book review
12:11:11 How Portland Became Portlandia
12:1:11 The Fixie
11:20:11 Camus' Insight
11:13:11 Old & Worthy
11:7:11 Life Is Tragic
10:31:11 A Matter of Death and Life, a book review
10:25:11 Dead Letter, Email Fatigue
10:18:11 Reinventing Collapse, a book review
10:11:11 Rereading Pirsig
10:1:11 The Sisters Brothers, a book review
9:26:11 The Great Stagnation, a book review
9:16:11 Coffee, The Affordable Luxury
9:12:11 The Genius of Value
9:5:11 Death and the Penguin, a book review