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Ivan's Childhood
cast: Kolya Burlaev, Valentin Zubkov, and Yevgeny Zharikov

director: Andrei Tarkovsky

91 minutes (PG) 1962
Artificial Eye DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Russia, World War II. Ivan (Kolya Burlaev) is 12 years old when the Nazis kill his parents. Bent on revenge, Ivan joins the partisans as a scout. Due to his size and youth, he's able to go behind enemy lines unnoticed. His leaders are concerned for his safety, and order him to be kept away from the fighting. But Ivan is determined on one last mission...

Ivan's Childhood was Tarkovsky's debut feature; it won the Golden Lion at the 1962 Venice Film Festival. It's certainly very impressive, but in many ways quite unlike his later work. It's the shortest of all his feature films, and Tarkovsky had yet to develop the longer, slower, more visually detailed style that he would develop. In genre terms, it's the most conventional of his works, falling easily into standard war-movie mode, complete with a romantic subplot. It's full of a visual exuberance that Tarkovsky would gradually pare away. The opening shot, which cranes up the side of a tree, is a typical example. However, with the aid of Vadim Yusov's stunning black and white camerawork, Tarkovsky shows from the outset his acute sense of place and atmosphere.

All five of Tarkovsky's Russian-made features form part of the Russian Cinema Council's (Ruscico) ongoing project to release 120 classic Russian films on DVD. Ivan's Childhood was filmed in Academy ratio (1.37:1) and Ruscico's DVD (distributed in the UK by Artificial Eye) is correctly presented full-frame. The Russian-language soundtrack is available in its original 1.0 mono and also in a 5.1 version. Ruscico's policy of remixing mono soundtracks like this one has been controversial, but at least here (unlike on the Mirror DVD) you have the choice. There are fewer subtitle options than previously, just Russian and English.

Disc extras: interviews with actor Yevgeny Zharikov, cinematographer Vadim Yusov and composer Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov, an extract from Tarkovsky's student film The Steamroller And The Violin (also on the Stalker DVD), a featurette Children Of War, a stills gallery, and filmographies. (The DVD case mentions another featurette, Memory, but unless this refers to the Steamroller And The Violin extract I'm unable to find it.) As usual with Ruscico, some of the filmographies contain links to trailers for other releases. Here, they are Andrei Rublev, The Cranes Are Flying, Solaris, and War And Peace.
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