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Ivan’s Childhood [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: LPCM 1.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: NR
  • Running Time: 95 minutes
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Blu-ray Release Date: January 22, 2013
  • List Price: $39.95

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3.5/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4/5]


War as seen through the eyes of a child provides an entirely different perspective from that of an adult.  Andrei Tarkovsky was beginning his directorial career with this 1962 release of Ivan’s Childhood (also released as My Name is Ivan). As the story begins, Ivan Bondarev (Nikolai Burlyaev) is a 12-year old orphan whose family has been wiped out by the Nazis.  After being picked up by Lieutenant Galtsev (E. Zharikov) in a Soviet encampment, it is revealed that he is a scout for a partisan group and has vital encoded information to pass on to Captain Kholin (Valentin Zubkov).  As the hostilities proceed, we get flashbacks via Ivan’s dreams, as we see his dead mother (Irina Tarkovskaya) and other memories from his now abandoned childhood. Over time, we find out that Ivan was sent away to a boarding school but ran away to join the army.  Some pretty interesting characters crop up such as the crusty Corporal Katasonych (S. Krylov) and the pretty medical worker Masha (V. Malyavina) who is briefly pursued in the forest by Captain Kholin-one of the few light moments in this rather dark film. Later, Ivan disappears on a reconnaissance mission and his fate is finally unearthed when his company search the records found in an abandoned German prison.

Director Tarkovsky was a young boy during World War II so many of the events depicted in this film must have hit very close to home. Many viewers coming to this film for the first time will be quite impressed with the stunning and rapid transformation of an innocent young boy to a hardened young man. To add verisimilitude to the proceedings, actual footage of the Russian Army’s invasion of Berlin and the death and destruction that they witnessed is inserted near the conclusion of Ivan’s Childhood.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

The Criterion Collection has not only revived a number of older film noirs, but their video restoration crew has done a marvelous job with this 50-year old print. The excellent detail and relative lack of blur and grain comes by way a Spirit 4K’s treatment of the 35 mm master positive. Manual removal of visual defects was accomplished with MTT’s DRS, Pixel Farm’s PFClean and Image System’s Phoenix. Although this was Tarkovsky’s first feature-length film,  he was already an accomplished imagist. The restoration effort certainly gives us much of the full impact that this film must have conveyed during its theatrical release.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3/5]

The mono soundtrack was remastered at 24 bits from a 35 mm optical soundtrack print. Clicks and crackles were deleted with Pro Tools HD and AudioCube’s integrated workstation.  There is some residual boxiness and lack of air throughout, but hiss and distortion are minimal. Dialogue and musical background are clearly presented.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3.5/5]

The Criterion Collection comes through with interesting bonus material:

  • Interview with film scholar Vida T. Johnson, co-author of The Films of Andre Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue.
  • Interviews with  cinematographer Vadim Yusov and lead actor Nikolai Burlyaev.
  • A deluxe booklet with essays by Dina Iordanova and Andrei Tarkovsky, and a poem, “Ivan’s Willow” by Tarkovsky.

I have nearly always found the insights of those who participated in the creation of a film to enable a deeper, more textured understanding of what is on the screen. These interviews and essays definitely fill that bill.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]


Although World War II ended more than 65 years ago, it was still fresh in the hearts and minds of many Russians when Ivan’s Childhood premiered. Of the WW II films of that era like The Ballad of a Soldier, war is presented from a point of view that differs significantly from that found in most American cinema. This very intimate story shows a young boy whose life has been ravaged by war and who is bound to join the partisan movement to avenge his lost family. There are relatively few scenes of actual combat as most deal with the interpersonal relationships of the soldiers (whom we get to know quite well) and the boy in short, stark settings.  As a directorial and cinematographic stroke of genius, there is symmetrical framing of the film’s beginning and conclusion with Ivan’s idyllic childhood scenes. Between them, Ivan’s metamorphosis and loss of  childhood is striking. His dreams or rather his nightmares convey the horror that we do not see happening on the screen. This was powerful stuff in 1962 and thanks to an extraordinary restoration effort it remains powerful stuff 50 years later. A must-see picture for all film fans.

Additional Screen Captures

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Purchase Ivan’s Childhood [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com


[amazon-product]B009RWRIMA[/amazon-product]

Purchase Ivan’s Childhood [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3.5/5]


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