****/**** Image A Sound B+ Extras B-
starring Nikolay Burlyaev, Valentin Zubkov, Yevgeni Zharikov, Stepan Krylov
screenplay by Vladimir Bogomolov and Mikhail Papava (uncredited: Andrei Tarkovsky and Andrei Konchalovsky)
directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
by Bryant Frazer Ivan's Childhood opens, unexpectedly enough, inside a dream. The film is impatient. Its dreaming actually begins before the Mosfilm logo has faded from the screen, as the call of a cuckoo echoes softly on the soundtrack. Young Ivan appears, surrounded by trees (their pine needles dripping with what must be cool morning dew), our view of his face criss-crossed by the lines of a spider's web strung up between the branches. The shot is perfectly composed, with the tree's slender trunk and one of its branches creating a secondary, off-centre frame around the boy's face. Ivan pauses there for only a moment--he must be looking for the cuckoo--before turning abruptly out of frame, a move that sends the camera skyward, moving vertically up the body of the pine and revealing more of the landscape. When the camera finishes its ascent, Ivan is again visible, in the midground of the image. His scrawny body, now seen in apparent miniature, turns again towards the camera. Nature is large and beautiful; he is small and, while lovely in a way, still awkward in his skin.