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The debut feature from the great Andrei Tarkovsky, Ivan’s Childhood is an evocative, poetic journey through the shadows and shards of one boy’s war-torn youth. Moving back and forth between the traumatic realities of WWII and the serene moments of family life before the conflict began, Tarkovsky’s film remains one of the most jarring and unforgettable depictions of the impact of violence on children in wartime.
For more about Ivan's Childhood and the Ivan's Childhood Blu-ray release, see Ivan's Childhood Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on January 5, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Nikolay Burlyaev, Nikolay Grinko, Yevgeni Zharikov, Andrey Konchalovskiy, Valentin Zubkov, Valentina Malyavina
Director: Andrey Tarkovsky
» See full cast & crew
Ivan's Childhood Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, January 5, 2013
Andrei Tarkovsky's "Ivanovo detstvo" a.k.a "Ivan's Childhood" (1962) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include a video interview with film scholar and writer Vida T. Johnson; video interview with actor actor Nikolai Burlyaev; and a video interview with cinematographer Vadim Yusov. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Dina Iordanova; "Between Two Films", Andrei Tarkovsky's essay on "Ivan's Childhood"; and "Ivan's Willow", a poem by the director's father, Arseny Tarkovsky. In Russian, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Twelve-year old Vanya (Nikolay Burlyaev, Living Rainbow, Andrei Rublev) looks happy. His mother is next to him, smiling. The sun is bright and hot. Somewhere up in the trees there is a cuckoo. Then a piercing scream abruptly changes the scenery. Vanya looks around and realizes that he has been dreaming a beautiful dream. He then quietly exits the windmill where he has been hiding and disappears into the night.
He can barely stand on his feet now but enters the nearby forest. There is freezing water everywhere. Somewhere on the other side of the forest, German patrols repeatedly fire off flares. But Vanya isn't scared. He moves slowly, in the shadows where no one could see his tiny body, and eventually crosses the river that separates the forest from the wheat fields.
Some hours later, Vanya is picked up by Soviet soldiers. He is sent to an underground bunker where Lt. Galtsev (Yevgeni Zharikov, Robinson Crusoe) asks him how he managed to cross the river. The explanation does not satisfy the seasoned soldier - no one can cross the river like Vanya claims he did. The boy's insistence to speak with HQ's Col. Gryaznov (Nikolai Grinko, Solaris) also annoys him.
But a quick message from HQ changes everything. Galtsev is informed that Vanya has been on an important mission and must be trusted. Eventually, Captain Kholin (Valentin Zubkov, The Cranes are Flying), an old friend, arrives to see him. When he enters the bunker, the boy jumps in his arms and he kisses him.
Vanya's info is crucial - the Germans have regrouped for a decisive battle, and now it is only a matter of time before they attack the Soviets. He is congratulated for a job well done and told that he will be sent to a safer place - an elite military school, far away from the nightmares of war. But the announcement enrages Vanya because he is convinced that there is a lot more he could do to help. Barely able to contain his anger, he warns that if Kholin attempts to send him away he will find a way to escape and join the partisans.
Andrei Tarkovsky's first full-length feature, Ivan's Childhood, is like a giant dream in which past and present frequently overlap. The past is revealed through different flashbacks and memories. The present is seen either through Vanya's eyes or those of different characters that would leave a trace in his life.
The film is notably bleak yet strikingly beautiful. At times it also looks awkwardly peaceful, though the abandoned army trucks, destroyed houses, and the black smoke that is repeatedly seen throughout the film certainly keep one aware that there is war, and that somewhere nearby men are dying. This is Tarkovsky's signature touch - seeing beauty where most other directors would see ugliness.
Vanya is seen from two entirely different angles. Early into the film he is still a young boy, looking brittle, desperately needing the encouraging words of someone older than him. Later on he looks like a hurt animal, barely able to control his anger. His love for the motherland and hatred for its enemies are often as overwhelming as those of the seasoned soldiers around him.
The film is slow and moody. There are long sections where the camera also moves freely, observing men and objects with the same curiosity. The result is a deeply atmospheric and unusually fluid film, arguably one of Tarkovsky's very best.
Note: In 1962, Ivan's Childhood won Golden Lion Award for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival.
Ivan's Childhood Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.34:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Andrei Tarkovsky's Ivan's Childhood arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"This high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit 4K from a 35mm fine-grain master positive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, and jitter were manually removed using MIT's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Image Systems' Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise reduction, and flicker.
Transfer supervisor: Lee Kline.
Colorist Joe Gawler/Technicolor, New York."
The high-definition transfer is beautiful. The dramatically improved depth and especially clarity during the nighttime sequences actually allow one to see objects that are basically lost on the R1 DVD release. Where there is plenty of light, the various close-ups also look fantastic (see screencaptures #3 and 13). There are no traces of excessive degraining. Problematic sharpening corrections have not been performed either. Colors are stable and lush, but never looking artificially boosted. There is a wide range of rich blacks, solid grays and gentle whites, all of which are consistently well balanced. Furthermore, it is obvious that the film has been carefully cleaned up as there are no large debris, scratches, flecks, or stains. There are no serious warps and frame transitions issues. Compression is also very good. All in all, this is a very impressive upgrade of Criterion's DVD release of Ivan's Childhood, and one that will likely end up on my Top 10 list at the end of the year. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Ivan's Childhood Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Russian LPCM 1.0 (with a few small portions of German). For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
Clarity and crispness are virtually identical on the Blu-ray and DVD releases, but depth is definitely improved. The difference is not subtle and during select sequences the gap in quality immediately becomes obvious. The dialog is crisp, stable, and easy to follow. While viewing the film, I also did not detect any pops, cracks, distortions, or heavy background hiss to report in this review. The English translation is excellent.
Ivan's Childhood Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Ivan's Childhood Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Ivan's Childhood is a stunningly beautiful, deeply atmospheric film from one of cinema's greatest masters, Andrei Tarkovsky. In the West, it is not as universally praised as his latter films, but I think that it is one of his most complete, most profoundly moving films. Criterion's presentation of Ivan's Childhood is outstanding. In fact, I believe that it is the best looking Tarkovsky film currently available on Blu-ray. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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