Ivan’s Childhood: Tarkovsky’s Extraordinary Debut

Ivan’s Childhood (aka “My Name Is Ivan”), Tarkovsky’s extraordinary feature debut, uses a visual style that artfully alternates between the real and the surreal in depicting a coming-of-age under dur conditions.

The film relates the poetic, moving tale of Ivan, a 12-year-old boy, caught up in World War II.  When Ivan’s family is killed, he joins the many orphaned youths who work as intelligence scouts for the Russian army. Frail, after two years of service, he is sent back to school. However, realizing that his childhood is over, Ivan makes his way back to the front.

In this film, Tarkovsky slightly deviated from the conventional dictums of Socialist Realism, providing an unusual combination of psychological realism and a haunting, lyrical imagery of an adolescent who was rubbed off his childhood and was forced to mature all too quickly due to circumstances beyond his control.

His break from mainstream Soviet cinema became apparent with his next film, “Andrei Rublev” in 1966 (which was banned in his country until 1971).

The film, which won the Golden Lion, the major award at the Venice Film festival, launched the career of Tarkovsky, a brilliant director who made a splash on the international art ciurcuit in the next two decades with such films as “Solaris,” “The Mirror,” “Nostalgia,” and “Sacrifice.”