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Showing 1-10 of 28 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 50 reviews
on August 16, 2016
I recently ordered from Amazon, Tarkovsky's book "Sculpting in Time, " on his approach to filmmaking-- falling in love with the mixed metaphor and wanting to familiarize myself with the director that Ingmar Bergman considered the best. It just arrived, but I felt I should first view at least one of his films; so I selected his first, "Ivan's Childhood." I was awestruck by his ability to create incredible sets--scouting out natural environments and, of course, manipulating them to enhance the storyline, but not that much. He captures clumps of trees in forests, in bodies of water, water doing amazing things, vast numbers of apples and 2 siblings on a wagon, horses eating those apples on a beach near the sea, and on and on. An extraordinary backdrop in a black and white film is the forest of bare white birch with their black and white natural detail, precise lighting, creating a surprising burst of color in this bleak environment, as well as providing an exquisite sculptural installation. What a stage set for characters to weave in and out of! The camera work and lighting are brilliant-- close ups, deep and long shots, dream sequences, masterful feats of light and shadow. The lead, a wonderfully gifted 12 year old, Nikolai Burlyayev is a casting phenomenon. The storyline (about time!) tells of the Russian orphaned Ivan, who witnessed the murder of his family by the Nazis and is determined to avenge their deaths by becoming a soldier himself. He is adamant and highly persuasive that his small size puts him at great advantage for sneaking in and out of enemy lines. This film is a definite don't miss, but it's also very different, and, if by chance, you also want to keep learning as long as you live, check it out.
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on June 23, 2015
In 1962, Andrei Tarkovsky was the Russian producer of the movie, Ivan's Childhood. This movie presents a Russian Boy on the verge of puberty, who is orphaned by the ravages of World War II. Thousands of Russian youngsters were orphaned; some were messengers and undercover agents for the Russian military to spy on Nazi forces. The presentation of young Ivan is a poetic style in which movement goes back and forth in the shadows and broken shards of the boy's war-torn youth. The shards are idyllic segments of family life and tragic real moments of war from the shadows. Some of the depictions are vivid in true-life savagery and actual vignettes regarding the fall of Berlin. At the end of the movie there are
actual filmed incidents of the Russian soldiers finding proof of atrocities. It is true the uniformed military Gestapo took Russian prisoners - including captured boys - and guillotined them. One of the shards in the movie was the disappearance of young Ivan and proof discovered during the fall of Berlin that he was captured and beheaded?! During the War Crimes Trials at Nuremberg, in 1945 included the fact 20 million Russians - have of them civilian - were killed during World War II. This movie, Ivan's Childhood, illustrates the tragedy especially on Russian youth as a massacre of civilians that was another demonstration of a Holocaust. What better way to be told about than by the Russians themselves!
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on July 28, 2015
Ivan is deeply involved in the war fighting against the Nazi invaders. What makes this war movie so special
is when Ivan dreams he is just a regular child enjoying pre war life. The dream scenes are playful and filmed
using beautifully photography and scenery. Then he wakes up in a hellish war that is no place for a child.
The Soviet officer tries to send Ivan away from the front lines but Ivan will have none of that. He is out for revenge
for the Nazi death of his family. So this film switches back and forth between the beauty of peace and the hell of war.
The boy who played Ivan did a wonderful job. In the dream scenes he was an innocent child and in the war part
he was a hard core man child who had no fear of anything including death. This is a must see movie.
ps Another reviewer stated this movie did not have much of a script. The way this film is make it does not require
a lot of talk. It is a visual film. The look on Ivan's face during the happy times and in war speaks volumes.
pss Also one of the extras that comes with this dvd is a film historian who loves this film and she goes through the film scene by scene
pointing out the many ways the director shows the conflict between peace and war. One example. In the peace scenes Ivan is around
water a lot, playing with a pail of clear clean water, drinking it and splashing his hands in it. In the war parts Ivan is
threatened by water in a river that is dirty that he nearly drowns in, later he is in water with Nazi bullets flying around him
and dead soldiers at the waters edge. At the end ( peace scene ) he and his sister are running through the water at the beach laughing and
There are a lot of metaphors and layers to this film that I missed on the first viewing.
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on December 18, 2013
Director Andrei Tarkovsky is well known for his visually sumptuous and deeply philosophical movies. But one perceived drawback of the bulk of these films for the casual viewer is that they may seem too long (most cross a 150 min running time) and languorously paced. However Ivan's Childhood, his first film, is a rather brisk and involving film about a child who wants to dedicate his life to fighting the Nazis and carries out dangerous spying missions for the Russian army, defiantly refusing to go back to civilian life till the war is over. His obsession is the result of his family having been killed during the war, and the title refers to a childhood that is lost on account of that.
Tarkovsky's great eye for memorable visuals is quite evident here, and this movie is a lot more accessible than some of his later magnum opuses. Highly recommended to movie buffs as a fantastic introduction to this great director.

Criterion's blu-ray gives an expectedly amazing presentation of this film, with wonderful contrast, terrific sharpness and detail (considering the age of the film) and a filmic look. The mono audio is clear and generally free of distortions, and English subtitles are provided in an easily readable white font. There are also some interesting extra features including discussions with the actor that wonderfully portrayed the child Ivan.
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on October 2, 2014
Andrei Tarkovsky's debut feature, replacing the titular director shortly after the start of filming. It is based on the story "Ivan" (1958) by Vladimir Bogomolov. Shot in black and white, won the Golden Lion of Venice, the Golden Gate Award (director) and other prizes. JP Sartre devoted a very complimentary article.

The action takes place on the banks of Dnieper in the last months of World War II. Ivan tells the story of an orphan boy, aged about 12, who lost his mother and sister at the hands of Nazi soldiers and whose father, border guard, he is gone. The action takes place in the time between the return of a scouting mission behind enemy lines and the beginning of another similar mission.
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on September 14, 2007
This is a DVD to own. "Ivan's Childhood" is Tarkovsky's first and arguably his most famous film. Based on Vladimir Bogomolov's early novella, "Ivan" (that is, "John") (1957), the film achieved wide acclaim outside Russia. It was produced at the risky time when Premier Khrushchev's era was ending and fundamentalist Marxists were ascendant again, restricting freedom in the arts; it is, as one observer wrote, "one of the harshest, morally complex versions of the war in Soviet film." It won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival. With this debut film, Tarkovsky established an international reputation that has influenced many other filmmakers.

Except for this novella, Bogomolov is not widely known outside Russia. However, it was translated and anthologized widely around the world. Look for Bernard Isaac's translation into British English. It has the atmosphere of reality. It is punctuated it with references to real places, the Dnieper River, the town Gomel, where Ivan was born, and the Trostyanets death camp; even official Red Army and SS documents have an authentic flavor.

The novella is told in the first person narrative of a Red Army lieutenant. Ivan is about 12 and a "scout", or reconnaissance spy, sneaking across the swampy Dnieper River into the night and behind German lines. The war made him an orphan and filled him with maddening hatred and desperation for revenge. He has been with partisans, in a death camp, and wounded by friendly fire returning from a mission one night. The soldiers are amazed he's been through so much.

There is the pun, of course: Ivan's last name is Bondarev, Ivan Bondarev, that is, John Bond. In the story, it's an intelligence cover name. However, Ian Flemming's first James Bond novels appeared in the early fifties before "Ivan" was published. It may be coincidental, and probably only of interest to Western readers.

Writers often insert their own lives and experiences into their writings, and Bogomolov served in the Red Army in World War II and in intelligence. I do not know if Bogomolov based Ivan on any real person that he may have met or learned about. I guess we can only speculate about Ivan, yet a child working as a war-time spy seems plausible to me. After all, in the desperate chaos at the close of the war, Germany mobilized the Hitler Youth and insurgent units called Werewolves. There is plenty of historical evidence pointing to child combatants throughout history as well as in current events. We recall that Baden-Powell, who created the Boy Scouts, was a former soldier and spy, and the crafts of scouting are important reconnoitering skills used in war. The world is as morally conflicted as ever.

Though he argued with Tarkovsky about the way his story was filmed, like all authors, I think Tarkovsky's approach was correct, considering the demands and possibilities of the cinemagraphic medium. This Criterion Edition of the film is cleaned up with a high definition digital transfer. There is a new subtitle translation. The highlight of the features is the interview with Nicholai (Kolya) Burlyaev, who portrayed Ivan. He reminisces how he was cast at 14 and how the film was made.

The film follows the novella closely, though it takes a more objective viewpoint and enters Ivan's troubled dreams, which make striking imagery. It is tragic poetry whereas the novella is matter-of-fact. Here, Ivan is somewhat bratty and hot tempered. Though he is a child scout, I think the film suggests that he may not be the only one. He knows his trade-craft and takes it very seriously. Still, no one seems overly concerned (in either film or story) that a child is a war-time spy. Frankly, he insists on doing it. Ivan's only friends are the soldiers who want to care for him (after the war)or send him to school but do not object to his missions.

The film, shot on location at the Dnieper River, is pregnant with dramatic, almost heavy-handed imagery and symbolism. There is the first metaphor of crossing the river. Then there is the metaphor of the dead tree. It's his extraction point where Sgt. Katasonov waits for him to bring him ashore to safety. But, Ivan misses the rendezvous because of German patrols and must swim further away. Here, one metaphor abuts another. At the end, following Ivan's last mission, Tarkovsky re-introduces the dead tree metaphor as Ivan races laughing on a beach, perhaps in whatever kind of dream that may have come for him. There are other interpretations, and this one satisfies me now. At the end of the day, we have Bogomolov's poignant story enhanced by Tarkovsky's uncompromising, haunting vision.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon January 26, 2010
Andrei Tarkovsky wrote of making this film, his first full-length feature, that he had to prove to himself whether he had it in him to be a filmmaker. He certainly did. It is a masterful film, shot in richly textured black and white, and Criterion's transfer is stunningly crisp and nuanced. Tarkovsky's innovations here can be seen in his approach to memory and dreams, his affinity for the elements of water and earth and fire, the sense of longing for a lost innocence that drives Ivan. At the same time, in many ways this film fits neatly into the period in Russia, during which a new openness to Western culture allowed young Russian filmmakers to innovate and explore new styles of film making, and also to bring a greater degree of realism to subject matters such as war. While the film is not critical of Russian conduct during World War II, it depicts clearly the horrors of war through its impact on a child, who should be experiencing childhood but is instead forced by circumstance, desperation and force of will to expose himself to danger. What is so touching about the film is the way the hardened young Ivan, who refuses to be coddled, nevertheless embraces and kisses the neck of his commanding officer, the closest thing he has to a father, and the next moment refuses to be sent to a school and threatens to run away as would a child. Highly recommended, both as an accessible introduction to one of the greatest filmmakers, as a striking and important statement on war, and as a beautiful example of the possibilities of cinema.
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on January 7, 2014
Starkly beautiful and moving, "Ivan's Childhood" displays the poignancy, penetration and poetry Tarkovsky is known for (especially of the oneiric style of juxtaposing the dream realm and the reality of war devoid of intermediary transition devices common in Hollywood. The story of a traumatized boy as a Soviet spy is still fresh (and heartbreaking) as is the famous "kiss scene" in the forest. Subsequent viewings are a definite and prerequisite to "Andrei Rublev", "Solaris" and "Stalker".
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on August 17, 2008
Ivan's Childhood is Tarkovsky's first main film, and his most conventional. It takes place during WW2 in Russia. We follow 12 year old Ivan who is a scout for the military. His dark everyday reality is contrasted with his dreams which are light and joyful. The film contains images and themes that are typical of Tarkovsky, like the sometimes diffuse border between dream and reality. Also, the landscape is not a typical war scene but rather more dreamlike.
The transfer of the DVD is excellent and the details of some images are incredible. Also, the introduction by Vida Johnson is really worth listening to.
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on September 15, 2000
Being Tarkovsky's first feature-length film, this is his least developed and polished in terms of style. In most ways this is also his most conventional work, but that is not surprising since he considered it a 'proving ground' for his future career. Additionally, he took this film over from another director during production (incidentally, by authoritative accounts "Ivan's Childhood" is the more appropriate title translation). It is perhaps his one film that cannot be considered a masterpiece, simply because from an overall aesthetic standpoint it does not quite measure up to the later films. However, this is undoubtedly the most accessible film of a famously 'inaccessible' artist, and the roots of the Tarkovskian world undeniably course through it, so it remains a serious and important work. In terms of the VHS transfer, just hope for a DVD version to arrive.
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