In WW2, twelve year old Soviet orphan Ivan Bondarev works for the Soviet army as a scout behind the German lines and strikes a friendship with three sympathetic Soviet officers.
- Ivan Bondarev: Nikolay Burlyaev
- Captain Kholin: Valentin Zubkov
- Lieutnant Colonel Gryaznov: Nikolay Grinko
- Lieutnant Galtsev: Yevgeni Zharikov
- Masha: Valentina Malyavina
- Ivan’s Mother: Irma Raush
- Corporal Katasonov: Stepan Krylov
- Old Man: Dmitri Milyutenko
- Soldier with Glasses: Andrei Konchalovsky
- Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
- Music: Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov
- Director of Photography: Vadim Yusov
- Editor: Lyudmila Feiginova
- Sound: Inna Zelentsova
- Screenplay: Andrei Konchalovsky
- Writer: Mikhail Papava
- Writer: Vladimir Bogomolov
- Production Design: Evgeniy Chernyaev
- Makeup Artist: Lyudmila Baskakova
- Script Editor: E. Smirnov
- Special Effects: Sergei Mukhin
- CRCulver: Ivan’s Childhood, released in 1962, was Soviet director’s Andrei Tarkovsky first feature film. An adaptation of a short story by Vladimir Bogomolov set in World War II, its protagonist is a 12-year-old orphan (Nikolai Burlyaev) on the Eastern Front whose small size allows him to scout German positions undetected. Ivan’s missions have been useful to the army, but officers Lt. Col. Gryaznov (Nikolai Grinko), Capt. Kholin (Valentin Zubkov) and Lt. Galtsev (Evgeny Zharikov) would like very much to send him to a military academy to get him away from the front, especially as the final offensive against the Germans is imminent.
The action in the film plays out between two of Ivan’s ventures across the river Dniepr into German-held territory. It depicts the difficult life of the soldiers at the front and the destruction that war brought to the Soviet village whose damaged buildings now host the army. Ivan’s back story is revealed elliptically through comments among the soldiers, dream sequences or flashbacks. A subplot involves Kholin’s disturbing attempts to seduce Nurse Masha (Valentina Malyavina) and, in stark contrast to earlier Soviet treatments of the war, suggest that in wartime one’s own fellow soldiers can just as dangerous as the enemy.
As far as Tarkovsky films go, Ivan’s Childhood is still an immature work. You’ll find nothing of the slow, almost ritualistic pacing that marks his later films, and this comes in at a compact 90 minutes. Still, a few shots (tracking shots of a wall, Ivan flipping through a book of religious art) seem like mature Tarkovsky in embryo, and the prominent use of religious iconography (crosses, fresco) is already here. Vadim Yusov’s cinematography is memorable, with its several “layers” of view in certain shots, and the prominent framing of shots with broken timber beams that seem to hinder the characters. I was however very disappointed that at the end, the film segues into basically a Soviet anti-German propaganda film, complete with archival footage of the Soviet capture of Berlin. It is like some completely different filmmaker took over.