Year of Release: 1962
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Screenplay: Vladimir Bogomolov and Mikhail Papava, based on the short story Ivan by Vladimir Bogomolov
Starring: Kolya Burlyayev, Valentin Zubkov, Evgeniy Zharikov, Stepan Krylov, Nikolay Grinko
Running Time: 94 minutes
Genre: War, drama
This is the astonishing debut film from legendary Russian film-maker Andrei Tarkovsky. It's set on the Eastern Front during World War II. Twelve year old Ivan (Burlyayev) is used as a scout by the Russian Army, and he is very good at it, being able to infiltrate enemy lines fairly easily on account of his small size. However his commanding officers, who are fond of him, want to send Ivan to a military school, where he will be safe. Ivan however, is desperate for revenge on the Nazis who killed his parents, and wants to fight on the front line.
This is a war movie where very little combat is actually shown. It mostly consists of long conversations in grimy makeshift military bases and burned out buildings, and long shots of nature. There are several, flashbacks and dream sequences to Ivan's earlier life with his mother, shown in shimmering silver with beautiful full, leafy trees and blooming forests and meadows. His real life, however is grimy, dirty, dangerous, desolate, and bleak. However, it is all shot very beautifully. Few directors have captured the natural world as beautifully as Tarkovsky, or have found such poetry and beauty in desolation. Tarkovsky believed in the power of long takes, that after boredom comes curiosity and a deeper connection to the audience. This is not really a film to be enjoyed. It is very slow moving, as you may have already guessed, and very bleak. It is also a very beautiful and important film, and is a startling piece of art, and this really is film as art. Those familiar with Tarkovsky's later films will see many of his hallmarks on display here: such as ruined buildings, nature, bells and water.
I would not recommend seeing this if you just want to be entertained on a Friday night, however if you want to see a real, beautiful piece of art, that will trouble you, haunt you and stay with you long after the end, than this is thoroughly recommended.