Ivan’s Childhood (1962)

ivans childhood poster 1962 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good story on the horrors of war

Simpler than other films of Tarkovsky

Movie Info

Movie Name: Ivan’s Childhood

Studio: Mosfilm

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s):  April 6, 1962 (Russia)/October 17, 1962 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

ivans childhood nikolai burlyayev russian

While other children are playing war, Ivan’s living it

Ivan Bondarev (Nikolai Burlyayev) is fighting for survival.  Orphaned and alone, he is surrounded by war as the Germans move in on the Russian front during World War II.  Ivan joins the fight despite his age, and despite refusing to leave the war, Ivan could become of the greatest assets to the resistance to stop the invasion.

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, Ivan’s Childhood (Ива ново де тство or Ivanovo detstvo) is a Russian historical drama.  The film is the first film of Tarkovsky and based on the 1957 short story “Ivan” by Vladimir Bogomolov.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #397).

I started with Tarkovsky late (I tried Solaris but struggled with the pacing), but I dove in deep with Stalker followed by Andrei Rublev…I backfilled a lot of his catalogue.  With very experimental movies, I didn’t know what to expect from Ivan’s Childhood, but Ivan’s Childhood is a much simpler movie.

ivans childhood dream mother irma raush nikolai burlyayev

Happier times

The story is about the horrors of war.  Ivan (as indicated) is a child and should be doing childish things.  Instead he’s sucked into a war and forced to deal with adult issues and adult struggles.  Since he is a child, it is easy for him to go under the radar and his youth is an asset, but he is forced to be an adult and pays an adult price by the end of the movie.

The cast is largely held together by Nikolai Burlyayev.  He’s young, but it also helps that he is very fresh faced and youthful because it shows the contrast of the war.  He should be young and he should be enjoying life instead he’s working as a Russian spy.  The subplot of Captain Koholin (Valentin Zubkov) and his relationship with a nurse named Masha (Valentina Malyavina) is underdeveloped and feels a bit out of place.

ivans childhood cpatain koholin masha valentine zubkov valentina malyavina

If a story plotline falls in the forest and no one cares about it…does it make a noise?

The movie does look good, but it doesn’t have a lot of technology pushing visuals that Tarkovsky later movies have.  Some of the dream sequences and the foggy, swamp looks of the film are well shot.  The dreams contrast with the war and like the shiny, pre-war Ivan.

Tarkovsky is a tough director, but his first entry is potentially one of his easiest and simplest…but that doesn’t mean that it is bad.  You see some glimpses of his first steps at becoming a great director…but also a commitment to his people.  Ivan’s Childhood is a great beginning.  Tarkovsky followed Ivan’s Childhood with Andrei Rublev in 1966.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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