Ivan’s Childhood centres around twelve-year-old Ivan (Nikolay Burlyaev), who gets involved with the Russians in World War II, acting as a scout for them behind German enemy lines. I found it a bit odd to get into at first, as he’s talking like an adult, commanding the Soviet officers to make calls to a specific man on his behalf, yet sounding like he’s having them on. His demands turn out to be credible and his story goes from there.
It’s a plus for Ivan because he wants to avoid military school, and early parts of his journey include chancing upon an old man standing in the bom -bed-out wreck of his home, who simply can’t leave, even though there’s just the stove and chimney remaining.
As for the lad, no-one really knows what happened to him beforehand, although it’s suspected that his mother and sister are dead, and that his father was a border guard, possibly killed in action, so he has no-one else he can rely on and is befriended by the soldiers he’s with.
Ivan’s Childhood is a film that does war on a minimal scale, which is quite an interesting way of doing it. Overall, with fascinating cinematography and astonishing clarity in the print, plus glorious lighting, the film is lovely to look at, but it frequently dragged with the story changing from one character to another, without explanation, so when Ivan’s offscreen, such as when it cuts to Soviet soldier Kholin (Valentin Zubkov), having a dalliance with the stunning Masha (Valentina Malyavina), you’re wondering why they’re not following him when it’s he who this film is meant to be about.
There’s also an interesting dream sequence where Ivan is with a girl of a similar age. I’m not sure if this is the first ever film to do something like that, but it’s a trope that’s been used in many films since (but no titles of any in case I accidentally give spoilers).
Eduard Abalov is also listed on IMDB as an uncredited director, as he was fired during the production. The director and Andrey Konchalovskiy also count as uncredited contributors to the screenplay.
The film is presented in the original 1.37:1 Academy ratio (approximately 4:3) and in 1080p high definition and I’ve described the quality of this already. It’s just unsurpassable for a film that’s 54 years old.
The audio is in DTS HD 1.0 mono, as you’d expect from a film of that era. There’s no issues with it, but obviously, the perils of war are not going to be split-surrounding about your ears.
The extras are initially a bit bizarre, but there’s some good interviews later on:
- Andrei Tarkovsky’s Metaphysical Dream Zone: An introduction by Mary Wild (2:35): film psychoanalyst Mary uses a lot of long words where simple descriptions would suffice.
- Andrei Tarkovsky’s Metaphysical Dream Zone Part 1: Ivan’s Childhood (8:08): Mary Wild talks about further aspects of the film, overanalysing it, and she confused the hell out of me. I couldn’t listen to the whole piece.
- Interviews – all in 4:3, and not dated so I don’t know when they were recorded, but they’re not in HD, either, so it was clearly a fair while ago for all of them.
There’s Evgeny Zharikov (18:27), who plays Galtsev; cinematographer Vadim Usov (33:19) and composer Vyaaheslav Ovchinnikov (also 33:19).
The menu features clips from the film set to a piece of the score, there are a bog standard 12 chapters and subtitles are in English.
Running time: 95 minutes
Released: June 27th 2016
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 1.0 DTS HD Master Audio (Mono), DTS 1.0, Dolby Digital 1.0
Languages: Russian, German
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky, and Eduard Abalov (uncredited)
Screenplay: Vladimir Bogomolov and Mikhail Papava
Music: Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov
Ivan: Nikolay Burlyaev
Kholin: Valentin Zubkov
Galtsev: Evgeniy Zharikov
Katasonov: Stepan Krylov
Gryaznov: Nikolay Grinko
Old Man: Dmitri Milyutenko
Masha: Valentina Malyavina
Ivan’s Mother: Irina Tarkovskaya
Soldier with glasses: Andrey Konchalovskiy
Girl: Vera Miturich
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.