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Ivan's Childhood

  • Film
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Ivan's Childhood
Photo: Courtesy of Shore International

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

The Russian front, 1943. A 12-year-old boy (Kolya Burlyaev), soaked and shivering, marches into Soviet headquarters and demands to speak to the top brass. The lieutenant on duty (Evgeniy Zharikov) starts to laugh – but something in the boy’s eyes makes him reach for the field telephone...

Anyone familiar with the dense, monumental later works of slow-cinema pioneer Andrei Tarkovsky (‘Solaris’, ‘Stalker’) might find his 1962 debut, reissued here in a restored print, surprisingly straightforward (not to mention brief, at a mere 92 minutes). The plot is relatively direct, following battle-scarred orphan Ivan and the men who use him – benevolently, but worryingly – to spy on the German forces huddled just across the swamp.

But ‘Ivan’s Childhood’ could only be a Tarkovsky film. No other director is simultaneously so precise and so otherworldly, so uncompromisingly bleak and so awake to the possibilities of joy. There’s a shot right at the start, as a dreaming Ivan finds himself lifted off his feet by a gust of wind, that’ll leave you gasping with delight – but by the final scenes, you’ll be inconsolable. Tarkovsky would go on to make grander, weightier, more iconic films, but it’s tough to argue he ever made a better one.

Written by
Tom Huddleston

Release Details

  • Release date:Friday 20 May 2016
  • Duration:95 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Andrei Tarkovsky
  • Screenwriter:Vladimir Bogomolov, Mikhail Papava
  • Cast:
    • Kolya Burlyaev
    • Yevgeny Zharikov
    • Dimitri Milyutenko
    • S Krylov
    • Nikolai Grinko
    • Andrei Konchalovsky
    • Irina Tarkovskaya
    • Valentine Zubkov
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