spap1’s review published on Letterboxd:
i’ve been meaning to watch another Tarkovsky film for a long time, knowing that i’d like it, but not quite having the energy to sit through. it’s not that i find them bad, as you can see already, but… well, i think you know what i mean.
this was probably his most starkly human film, in terms of the grounding reality which is connected to it, but is definitely not unlike what he approached afterwards.
imagine waking up in a world that you do not recognise, one that doesn’t even seem to recognise you, it doesn’t even seem to have a place for you any longer, but still having to come to terms with the fact that it is the same world you had closed your eyes upon the night before. what could we even begin to feel?
the world is a place that many cannot understand, even less can explain it, but at least we - assuming everyone reading this is above a certain age - as independently conscious people, can understand small changes in the air around us and quickly come to terms with such changes, yet what about those who cannot? those smaller children who are left behind, cast and pushed through into atrocious changes that may never be rectified, changes that may never seem to show the clear route to resolution that one would need at such an age. how could they even function?
travelling through the woods of the world that has turned its back on them, they must return to memories of the past for that comfort, for that resolution, finding its roots in the form of that childish hope, that blind optimism that comes with being young. they must find happiness in everything that seems hopeless, find the brightness in a drab world that has become plagued with buzzing flies the size of a car dropping its remains, scattering then along the ground before them. what is the chance of finding what has once been?
so, must they just grow up beyond their time? must they come to realise that the resolutions that were in their children’s books, the literature which they would’ve sworn by as reality itself, is nothing but fictitious, with a true reality as stark as what they could never quite even begin to imagine? one can only imagine what their poor souls must have to go through in order to feel once again connected with the world, a world which had once seemed so small.
Tarkovsky is a special director, mainly because he’s so original in everything he does. i don’t think that anyone has actually been able to imitate him at all since his own films, which is strange because he tended to see his films as the true form of cinema, and hoped that it would continue to grow as a movement over time, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t retained great acclaim and popularity in our time. i think it’s mainly down to the fact of his films being so complicated, with their mixing of two mediums - pure poetry and cinema - which is something that many would not quite venture to do. there are people who have clearly been influenced by him, at least i believe so, such as Terrence Malick, but he himself has his own clear style. it is just one entire unique to him, so much so that it became inimitable.
there really is some pretty impressive acting here from Nikolai Burlyaev. i never know what to expect from child actors, as sometimes they’re terrible and other times they excel even some of the mainstream celebrities, people who like to call themselves actors, that we have today - not naming anyone here. but i was definitely wonderfully surprised by this one, he just managed to perfectly grab my attention right from the very outset, aiming to take an audience on that journey from utmost joy through that innocence which he had pertained, to a suffering low of times changed so greatly. i don’t think i could even begin to criticise, or grading, the reality-factor of this film because would reality not truly go out of the window in such cases as these?
the cinematography was actually some of the best i’ve seen from Tarkovsky, and by that i mean some of the least stagnant. don’t get me wrong, i love those wonderful still, or barely moving, long shots of his, but sometimes it’s nice to see some movements beyond this. while this film only delivered a certain degree of that - i mean i can’t exactly expect too much from Tarkovsky - it definitely allowed for a wonderful change in tone, with the camera almost acting as a bird, a piece of nature, all in its erratic state, allowing us to see Ivan and his family through a completely unfiltered, unknowing lens, particularly in the past. perhaps we are watching a pre-WWII family as though they were alien, as though in a post-WWII world, that innocence no longer exists.
that’s all, but this was wonderful in everything it had to offer. an honourable, and wonderfully heartfelt tribute of a debut feature film.