When it was thought that all had already been done in cinema with the innovative and great works of Eisenstein, Vertov, Rossellini, De Sica, Kurosawa, Kalatazov, Bergman and Antonioni, and nothing more to create, it comes another great filmmaker from Russia, Andrei Tarkovsky with his masterpiece “Ivan’s Childhood”. Surprisingly at age 28 his debut film stirred up not just emotions and awakenings around the globe, but vast discussions in the realm of philosophy, sociology and history that did not spare the great French philosopher and writer, Jean Paul Sartre to write a detailed letter to the editor of the Italian newspaper “L’Unita” in response to some critics of the film, that was an article. The film impressed the great Ingmar Bergman, the most prolific filmmakers of all time (even more than Chaplin) that he wrote: “My discovery of Tarkovsky’s first film was like a miracle. Suddenly, I found myself standing at the door of a room the keys of which had, until then, never been given to me. It was a room I had always wanted to enter and where he was moving freely and fully at ease.”
This great anti-war film, depicting heroism at the depth of loss and casualties of war with hatred and self-sacrifice was adapted from the short story of “Ivan” by Vladimir Bogomolov of 1957. Tarkovsky, the mastermind of the film who collaborated in the screenplay (but uncredited) with the author and Mikhail Papava. The great cinematographic work of Vadim Yusov who later on collaborated with Tarkovsky in his other films, perfected with the music score of the talented composer Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov who began composing from ager 9, depicted the horror and hatred of the war from an orphan child’s perspective who had lost all that he had by German Nazis.
“Ivan’s Childhood” is such a visual or cinematic masterpiece that has to be detailed more than usual, though it could be discussed and taught frame by frame, but here a concise of what is minimum necessity will be discussed. At the end and before the conclusion, Jean Paul Sartre’s letter or article about the film will be first presented here in its almost totality with a brief review and discussion over it. The article from the great French and existentialist philosopher and writer of our modern time is important as he critiqued Orson Wells’ “Citizen Kane” negatively, despite being considered by many including AFI as the best American film of all time or one the top films internationally in many lists.
A Cinematic Craft to perfection
The film right away without any titles, opens with magic surprise, the face and the look of a young boy, Ivan in a woods, with zoom focus on his face and eyes, then on the detail of the pine tree, moving up all the way, leaving the boy down in the background. The camera with a great fitting background score, examines and introduces the natural beauty of the surroundings, such as the look of a deer (like in the recent move of “Hannah”), then follows a butterfly flying around in the field, that the young Ivan follows with his eyes in joy and laughter. We see all these as we are present in the moment.
Read the full text here: