Ivan’s Childhood, film review: 'The most lyrical war movie ever made pristinely restored'

(12A) Andrei Tarkovsky,  94 mins, starring: Nikolai Burlyayev, Valentin Zubkov

Tarkovsky’s debut feature (re-released in a pristine newly restored version) is surely the most lyrical war movie ever made. It is set at a brutal and bloody moment in the Second World War.

Its main characters have all suffered devastating personal losses as the Soviet army tries to repel the Nazi invasion - and yet the film is a coming of age story which deals with young love and in which characters still have time to discuss art and books and to listen to music.

The film opens in magical fashion with a sun-drenched dream sequence in which the 12 year old Ivan is shown as a golden haired boy in a sunny, pastoral setting, delighting in the natural world and with his mother doting on him.

The reality, when he awakens, is that he’s a desperate kid, crawling through barbed wire-strewn swamps and trying to stay alive in a war zone.

“He’s been through more than you can imagine,” we are told of the boy, who is driven by a desire for revenge, has been fighting for the partisans, and is clearly deeply traumatised.

Tarkovsky pays full attention to the squalor and pity of war but never loses his sense of poetry. Whether filming a courtship scene in the woods or showing light reflecting off the water, the camerawork is astonishingly fluid and inventive.

We are told several times that war is a man’s profession but what makes the film so distinctive is that it takes a child’s eye view.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in