Quick-Thoughts: Andrei Tarkovsky’s Ivan’s Childhood (1962)

Andrei Tarkovsky Marathon Part II of III

Finally, the good version of Jojo Rabbit.

Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1962 debut Ivan’s Childhood operates its existence of World War II through a psychosis reality. Ivan, a young 12-year-old Russian spy, is depicted as on the surface, an ambitious and self-confident individual. Yet, he is disrupted by an imaginative piece in another part of his brain that emits these phenomenons which could either be dreams, memories or something more cumulative — it’s never specified intentionally. What is palpable, however, is that these ideas swarming around in Ivan’s head are those of a desire for peace, a wish for return, despite that the consciousness of his mind is imprisoned with this grueling thirst for vengeance.

On a visual level, this film goes through the roof when it comes to war dramas. Tarkovsky’s seamless blend of his unfamiliar handheld shots — which shine especially in the “dream” sequences — and his usual tender, sedated camerawork are a committed pair that help transpire the state of war into a more surrealist environment. The black-and-white aesthetic in Tarkovsky’s feature-length debut compliments the intentional shadow and profusely very dark/light imagery that’s often used as a heavy weight to a lot of the artistic value in the cinematography. The score prevails, as well, truly bringing the “thriller” side of the narrative to life. Tarkovsky has essentially personified a wholly rotten atmosphere that desperately requires the comfort of others, something Ivan stubbornly believes he doesn’t have but subconsciously knows he needs. To be completely masculine in a situation like this is impossible, as Tarkovsky suggests, and it shouldn’t be strived for even as a protective suit from death. The binding of interaction is all the clarity we have left when in the s**t of war. 

The conscious tells minimal of what we truly desire but the subconscious can sometimes tell us all. War is destined to wipe the front-value innocence of any child away; what’s barely left of Ivan’s seems to be of these unconscious little grasps or snippets of a childhood most would call ideal. In this state though, in a time of international violence, Ivan’s consciousness was unfortunately more practical than the preferability of Ivan’s subconsciousness. Ivan was, in a way, mature because of this, but not as a benefit, more like a damnation.

Verdict: A

Andrei Tarkovsky Ranked, My All-Time Favorite Movies

“Ivan’s Childhood” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

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