Ivan’s Childhood (1962)

As a script writer for hire and UK script consultant, I try to see everything worth seeing, from new releases to old silent films.  Sometimes, films or directors manage to slip under my radar, I’m only human after all. 

I’m aware that for a long time, apart from short clips or sequences I wasn’t familiar with the work of a man described by many as one of the world’s greatest film directors.  That man is Andrei Tarkovsky, and this weekend I started to put this oversight right by watching my first film by the maestro Ivan’s Childhood from 1962.

The film is a WW2 story, seen from the point of view of a Russian child, who has ended up working for the army as a scout behind enemy lines.

The story itself, is simple, not a great deal happens, we learn about Ivan, his suffering and the lives of some Soviet officers who are his friends, commanders and ultimately his guardians.

What makes the film deserve it’s reputation as a classic?  To put it simply, it’s the direction, chiefly the use of the camera (often mobile) the photography itself is beautiful, but the camera moves capture the emotion and action, the often ravaged landscape and the beauty in the bleakness of war. Alongside the camera zipping in and out, left and right, comes organised editing, fast cutting, and combined with the camerawork the audience gets the sense of a master at work, with a mad eye, greedy to show us the horror and brutality, but in ways that we’ve not seen them before in film.

The film was made in the early 60s, and looks way more modern and way older at the same time. Tarkovsky is often compared to Kubrick, who made his own war film Paths of Glory just a few years ealier. I’d say the Kubrick film is just as stunning, but more formal and classical.

Ivan’s Childhood at times looks like Paths of Glory, but as if directed by the Sam Riami who shot The Evil Dead in the 80s. That’s how kinectic Tarkovsky’s camera often is.

Still Tarkovsky and Kubrick’s careers remained entwined throughout the years and the two continue to be compared as great directors. The next Tarkovsky I intend to see is Stalker made towards the end of his career.  I’ll let readers know what I think.

Ivan’s Childhood is ultimately a moving film, but so filled with startling imagery that the central story may feel overwhelmed? Was a directors eye ever too good, too kinetic for the material?  I’m sure it happens.   Just ask Sam Raimi, Stan Kubrick or … Andrei Tarkovsky.

Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire, UK Script editor  and script doctor for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant and freelance script writer for hire and online screenwriting expert. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on matcoop23@yahoo.co.uk or hire him on Peopleperhour

His directorial debut, the rubber reality horror thriller Markham will be released in 2020.