Ivan's Childhood

Ivan's Childhood ★★★★

A mud-soaked forest. Water lazily dripping into a well. The jagged remains of a burnt-down house. The hollow creaking of a dislocated door. Towering white trees in a barren forest. A furiously chiming bell. Sunlight seeping through the bent but not broken survivor of an explosion: a cross. You and her on the cart, holding apples into the rain. Laughing. The peaceful lapping of a boat on troubled waters. Two long-dead bodies sitting grotesquely in the swamp. Treading through a mud-engulfed forest. A silence-puncturing gunshot. The voice of German soldiers. Towering trees in the darkness. The troubled lapping of a boat on peaceful waters. An execution room. Running across a beach. Overtaking her. Reaching your destination: a perished tree.

Ivan's Childhood works exactly why you would think it wouldn't: because of its simplicity. Like Andrei Rublev, my previous outing with Tarkovsky, Ivan's Childhood is a montage of allegorical scenes set in the director's rain-soaked, mud-smeared, sorrow-spattered world, but unlike the 3.5-hour long epic, it is neither as meticulously woven together nor as grand in scope. And therein lies its magic. Ivan's Childhood is the perfect testament to the superiority of ambience over plot and of impact over message. It is definitely not a tightly packed film with regard to plot, but offers more in terms of substance in its 1.5-hour runtime than any story-driven movie could ever hope to achieve. Boy, am I excited to see more Tarkovsky.

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