My Name Is Ivan


1h 35m 1963
My Name Is Ivan

Brief Synopsis

A twelve-year old Russian boy spies on the Germans during World War II.

Film Details

Also Known As
Ivan's Childhood, Ivanovo detstvo
Genre
Drama
War
Foreign
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1963
Premiere Information
New York opening: 26 Jun 1963
Production Company
Mosfilm
Distribution Company
Sig Shore
Country
Soviet Union
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "Ivan" by Vladimir Osipovich Bogomolov (Moscow, 1959).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

Having lost his father, mother, and sister in the early days of World War II, 12-year-old Ivan thinks only of vengeance. All that remains of his childhood appears at night in his restless dreams. Joining a military intelligence unit, he moves behind enemy lines in the Pripet Marshes, reporting on troop movements and locations of equipment and supplies. The proud, resolute boy is well liked by his superior Captain Kholin and by Colonel Gryaznov, the head of the intelligence unit. They decide, however, that he should be placed in a school to the rear, away from the dangers of war. Rebelling against the plan, Ivan runs away but returns shortly and is permitted to rejoin the group. He is given a dangerous assignment: to cross the river and gather information on the enemy's strength. On a cold autumn night, the boy makes the crossing and disappears into the dark forest. After the victory of the Soviet army, Captain Kholin and Lieutenant Galtsev, another of Ivan's friends, are sorting captured Gestapo documents when they find a dossier containing the boy's picture. Across his face is stamped the word "executed."

Film Details

Also Known As
Ivan's Childhood, Ivanovo detstvo
Genre
Drama
War
Foreign
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1963
Premiere Information
New York opening: 26 Jun 1963
Production Company
Mosfilm
Distribution Company
Sig Shore
Country
Soviet Union
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "Ivan" by Vladimir Osipovich Bogomolov (Moscow, 1959).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

My Name is Ivan


A harrowing yet poetic account of war seen through the eyes of a twelve year old boy, My Name is Ivan (1962) was Andrei Tarkovsky's first feature film and one that had a major impact on Russian cinema and the international film world (It won the Golden Lion at the 1962 Venice International Film Festival). The film, based on a novella by Vladimir Bogomolov, traces the brief life of a young concentration camp escapee, working as a spy for the Russian army during World War II. Recently orphaned - his mother and father were murdered, his sister killed by a bomb - Ivan dedicates himself to revenge against the Germans and willingly accompanies two Russian soldiers into a 'No Man's Land' between the two armies where they hope to retrieve the bodies of some dead comrades.

The ironic Russian title, Ivan's Childhood, is actually the more appropriate one since Ivan has already lost his innocence when the film opens. Here is a young boy who has had his childhood stolen from him by a man-made calamity. In the title role, Nikolai Burlyayev gives a remarkable performance, his expressive features allowing him to appear as a hungry, wide-eyed waif one moment and as a confident, expert assassin in the next. Equally unique is Andrei Tarkovsky's direction, which resembles a stream of consciousness narrative, blending realistic action sequences with the visions, dreams, and memories of the title character. There are also numerous cultural references to art, religion, music, and poetry and the visual compositions of the film are often haunting and unconventional: a light above a table swings back and forth to the sound of shellfire, reflections of leafless trees in a lake resemble crosses, a sudden explosion destroys a wall to reveal an icon of the Madonna and child, tilted over at an oblique angle.

When Tarkovsky began work on My Name is Ivan, he was actually replacing another director - E. Abalov - on the project. While it was a difficult production for him - much of the production money had already been spent when he started - Tarkovsky was attracted to Bogomolov's atypical war story that concentrated on the warped personality of the young military scout and downplayed the heroic military exploits. The original screenplay, co-scripted by Mikhail Papava, gave Ivan a happy ending, allowing him to survive the war, marry, and raise a family. But Bogomolov protested this departure from his novella and Tarkovsky remained faithful to the author's vision that Ivan remain a tragic hero who met the fate of most young Soviet scouts during the war. Unlike the original story, however, Tarkovsky added four dream sequences and other visual touches to illustrate Ivan's psychological state in the film which did not please the novella's author. Some of his creative decisions were challenged by the studio which reviewed his work in a strict, bureaucratic matter, subjecting him to thirteen 'editorial' sessions, presided over by respected Russian artists from the literary and film community. At these, major and minor changes were requested such as the removal of the love scene or the graphic documentary footage featuring charred Nazi corpses (excised from the U.S. release) but Mikhail Romm, Tarkovsky's mentor, effectively argued against cutting any footage.

When My Name is Ivan was released in 1962, it brought Tarkovsky international fame almost immediately. At numerous film festivals from San Francisco to Acapulco, Tarkovsky was recognized as an emerging poet of the medium and even many Russian critics saw the film as a major leap forward in contemporary Soviet cinema. But he still had to contend with some critical backlash from Soviet authorities who found the film too stylistically complex or overtly pessimistic. In his book, Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema, Tarkovsky wrote: "Working on Ivan's Childhood we encountered protests from the film authorities every time we tried to replace narrative causality with poetic articulations...There was no question of revising the basic working principles of film-making. But whenever the dramatic structure showed the slightest sign of something new - of treating the rationale of everyday life relatively freely - it was met with cries of protest and incomprehension. These mostly cited the audience: they had to have a plot that unfolded without a break, they were not capable of watching a screen if the film did not have a strong story-line. The contrasts in the film - cuts from dreams to reality, or, conversely, from the last scene in the crypt to victory day in Berlin - seemed to many to be inadmissible. I was delighted to learn that audiences thought differently."

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Screenplay: Vladimir Bogomolov, Mikhail Papava
Art Direction: Ye. Chernyayaev
Cinematography: Vadim Yusov
Film Editing: Lybba Feiginova
Original Music: Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov
Principal Cast: Nikolai Burlyayev(Ivan), Valentin Zubkov (Capt. Kholin), Yevgeni Zharikov (Lt. Galtsev), Valentina Malyavina (Masha), Nikolai Grinko (Col. Gryaznov), Stepan Krylov (Katasonych).
BW-97m.

by Jeff Stafford

My Name Is Ivan

My Name is Ivan

A harrowing yet poetic account of war seen through the eyes of a twelve year old boy, My Name is Ivan (1962) was Andrei Tarkovsky's first feature film and one that had a major impact on Russian cinema and the international film world (It won the Golden Lion at the 1962 Venice International Film Festival). The film, based on a novella by Vladimir Bogomolov, traces the brief life of a young concentration camp escapee, working as a spy for the Russian army during World War II. Recently orphaned - his mother and father were murdered, his sister killed by a bomb - Ivan dedicates himself to revenge against the Germans and willingly accompanies two Russian soldiers into a 'No Man's Land' between the two armies where they hope to retrieve the bodies of some dead comrades. The ironic Russian title, Ivan's Childhood, is actually the more appropriate one since Ivan has already lost his innocence when the film opens. Here is a young boy who has had his childhood stolen from him by a man-made calamity. In the title role, Nikolai Burlyayev gives a remarkable performance, his expressive features allowing him to appear as a hungry, wide-eyed waif one moment and as a confident, expert assassin in the next. Equally unique is Andrei Tarkovsky's direction, which resembles a stream of consciousness narrative, blending realistic action sequences with the visions, dreams, and memories of the title character. There are also numerous cultural references to art, religion, music, and poetry and the visual compositions of the film are often haunting and unconventional: a light above a table swings back and forth to the sound of shellfire, reflections of leafless trees in a lake resemble crosses, a sudden explosion destroys a wall to reveal an icon of the Madonna and child, tilted over at an oblique angle. When Tarkovsky began work on My Name is Ivan, he was actually replacing another director - E. Abalov - on the project. While it was a difficult production for him - much of the production money had already been spent when he started - Tarkovsky was attracted to Bogomolov's atypical war story that concentrated on the warped personality of the young military scout and downplayed the heroic military exploits. The original screenplay, co-scripted by Mikhail Papava, gave Ivan a happy ending, allowing him to survive the war, marry, and raise a family. But Bogomolov protested this departure from his novella and Tarkovsky remained faithful to the author's vision that Ivan remain a tragic hero who met the fate of most young Soviet scouts during the war. Unlike the original story, however, Tarkovsky added four dream sequences and other visual touches to illustrate Ivan's psychological state in the film which did not please the novella's author. Some of his creative decisions were challenged by the studio which reviewed his work in a strict, bureaucratic matter, subjecting him to thirteen 'editorial' sessions, presided over by respected Russian artists from the literary and film community. At these, major and minor changes were requested such as the removal of the love scene or the graphic documentary footage featuring charred Nazi corpses (excised from the U.S. release) but Mikhail Romm, Tarkovsky's mentor, effectively argued against cutting any footage. When My Name is Ivan was released in 1962, it brought Tarkovsky international fame almost immediately. At numerous film festivals from San Francisco to Acapulco, Tarkovsky was recognized as an emerging poet of the medium and even many Russian critics saw the film as a major leap forward in contemporary Soviet cinema. But he still had to contend with some critical backlash from Soviet authorities who found the film too stylistically complex or overtly pessimistic. In his book, Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema, Tarkovsky wrote: "Working on Ivan's Childhood we encountered protests from the film authorities every time we tried to replace narrative causality with poetic articulations...There was no question of revising the basic working principles of film-making. But whenever the dramatic structure showed the slightest sign of something new - of treating the rationale of everyday life relatively freely - it was met with cries of protest and incomprehension. These mostly cited the audience: they had to have a plot that unfolded without a break, they were not capable of watching a screen if the film did not have a strong story-line. The contrasts in the film - cuts from dreams to reality, or, conversely, from the last scene in the crypt to victory day in Berlin - seemed to many to be inadmissible. I was delighted to learn that audiences thought differently." Director: Andrei Tarkovsky Screenplay: Vladimir Bogomolov, Mikhail Papava Art Direction: Ye. Chernyayaev Cinematography: Vadim Yusov Film Editing: Lybba Feiginova Original Music: Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov Principal Cast: Nikolai Burlyayev(Ivan), Valentin Zubkov (Capt. Kholin), Yevgeni Zharikov (Lt. Galtsev), Valentina Malyavina (Masha), Nikolai Grinko (Col. Gryaznov), Stepan Krylov (Katasonych). BW-97m. by Jeff Stafford

Ivan's Childhood - Andrei Tarkovsky's 1962 Debut Film IVAN'S CHILDREN on DVD


Watching an Andrei Tarkovsky film, you can hardly be blamed for thinking that the troubled Russian visionary was a cinematic world unto himself – a cosmic mise-en-scene Prometheus, conjuring bottomless metaphysical mysteries with a long-take aesthetic the likes of which film had never seen before. And you'd be half-right: Tarkovsky (in particular with his last three films, Stalker, Nostalghia and The Sacrifice) palpably evoked a world of pregnant enigmas, intellectual angst and rainy-landscape atmosphere that is his alone.

The half that you'd get wrong is thinking of Tarkovsky as a *sui generis* artiste. For solid precedents you can begin with Alexander Dovshenko's Earth (1930) and Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky (1938), two visually monolithic staples of a Soviet film school education by the time Tarkovsky arrived there in the late 1950s. More to the point, Mikhail Kalatosov, a veteran from the silent days, released his global hit The Cranes Are Flying in 1957, and herein lies the philosopher's stone at the heart of Tarkovsky's aesthetic. Kalatosov and his superhuman cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky (together they also made 1959's The Letter Never Sent and 1964's epochal I Am Cuba) devised a breathtaking visual vocabulary that stretched what cinema had been capable of, even in the hands of Murnau: dramatic single shots that would encompass characters as well as acres of landscape, deep-focus extremes in perspective, vertiginous movement and multiple points of view. Each Kalatosov/Urusevsky take is an trapeze stunt, an athletic exercise in seeing how much life and world and experience can be crammed into a single camera take.

This achievement's influence was tremendous, not only impacting on Tarkovsky but upon filmmakers all over eastern Europe, including the Hungarian masters Miklos Jancso and Bela Tarr, Greek epic-maker Theo Angelopoulos, Czech troublemaker Jan Nemec, and fellow Russians Sergei Bondarchuk, Alexei German, Larisa Shepitko and Alexander Sokurov. The interface with Kalatosov's films is so palpable in Tarkovsky's debut, Ivan's Childhood (1962), that the film comes off today as a product of the Khrushchev thaw fashion among Soviet filmmakers and not the work of a genius idiosyncrat – or, at least, the artist's formative launch into the feature-making industry. Either way, the film has a fascinating historical role to play, as the missing link between the typical-albeit-brilliant Soviet system drones of the day to the anti-state, pro-humanist, rule-decimating culture voice Tarkovsky would eventually exemplify.

Like many firsttimers, Tarkovsky walked into someone else's project – Ivan's Childhood was an adaptation of a novel already in development at Mosfilm, when Tarkovsky and Andrei Konchalovsky were asked to rework the screenplay. Tarkovsky did in fact see it as a test – was he, after only a handful of student films (including a faithful adaptation of Hemingway's The Killers), up to the demands of filmmaking within the Soviet machine? Ivan is a WWII tale (then and for a long time a reliable source of righteous outrage and drama for the Soviets), focused often impressionistically on the experiences of a war-hardened, Nazi-orphaned 12-year-old boy (Nikolai Burlyaev) who runs missions as a scout across the Western front. Haughty and demanding, Ivan gives his adult soldier guardians hell, and if he sees himself now, despite rosy memories of country life with his mother, as a war hero, the officers in charge struggle with the decision of sending him back into the combat zone or away to the safety of a military school.

Whenever Tarkovsky wrestles his characters free of an enclosed room and expository dialogue (all deftly handled in any case), his Kalatosovian wings spread: the compositions become alarming high-contrast, the shots grow longer and become mobile, the primal landscape stretches out indefinitely, a dazzlingly dense and optically disarming birch forest becomes more than just a setting but a cinematic visitation to another person's unforgettable experience. (Indeed, the film's key scenes, including the sadly beautiful climactic shot of a sun shower falling upon horses busy eating dropped apples on the beach, are reproductions of Tarkovsky's childhood memories.) Therein lies one of the film's most sublime orchestrations, whoever's style it might be derived from: a flirting Russian soldier and girl among the birches are shot on the move from close to the ground, and as they go to cross a trench, the camera dips down into the hole and gazes up at the couple, as the soldier catches the girl in mid-jump, his legs straddling the ditch, and kisses her.

Like most of what's memorable of Soviet films from the thaw, Ivan's Childhood is a deeply humanist film, unspoiled by earnest flag-waving and simplistic nationalism, in the vivid and poetic way established by Poles like Andrzej Wajda just a few years earlier. (It's an inheritance from the Italian neo-realists, but the Communist nations' versions were never necessarily realistic.) Even so, it remains, in fact, the only Tarkovsky feature you could comfortably call "Soviet" – his next film, the historical pageant Andrei Rublev (1969), was so faithful in its depiction of medieval Russia that it sat on the shelf, censored, for several years. After that, Tarkovsky made films for a global audience, and for the eyes of the divine – he left the petty, ephemeral matter of ideologies and governments far behind (and never gained the favor of the Politburo), his films voyaging into outer space, metaphoric territories and hermetic inner spaces. He eventually went into self-imposed exile, to Italy and then Sweden, before dying of cancer at the age of 54. Still, the essential "Sovietness" of Ivan's Childhood is hardly a burden (the Khrushchev-initiated Soviet New Wave was one of the era's most fecund), and the movie remains one of the best ever made about the fate of children in wartime.

For more information about Ivan's Childhood, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Ivan's Childhood, go to TCM Shopping.

by Michael Atkinson

Ivan's Childhood - Andrei Tarkovsky's 1962 Debut Film IVAN'S CHILDREN on DVD

Watching an Andrei Tarkovsky film, you can hardly be blamed for thinking that the troubled Russian visionary was a cinematic world unto himself – a cosmic mise-en-scene Prometheus, conjuring bottomless metaphysical mysteries with a long-take aesthetic the likes of which film had never seen before. And you'd be half-right: Tarkovsky (in particular with his last three films, Stalker, Nostalghia and The Sacrifice) palpably evoked a world of pregnant enigmas, intellectual angst and rainy-landscape atmosphere that is his alone. The half that you'd get wrong is thinking of Tarkovsky as a *sui generis* artiste. For solid precedents you can begin with Alexander Dovshenko's Earth (1930) and Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky (1938), two visually monolithic staples of a Soviet film school education by the time Tarkovsky arrived there in the late 1950s. More to the point, Mikhail Kalatosov, a veteran from the silent days, released his global hit The Cranes Are Flying in 1957, and herein lies the philosopher's stone at the heart of Tarkovsky's aesthetic. Kalatosov and his superhuman cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky (together they also made 1959's The Letter Never Sent and 1964's epochal I Am Cuba) devised a breathtaking visual vocabulary that stretched what cinema had been capable of, even in the hands of Murnau: dramatic single shots that would encompass characters as well as acres of landscape, deep-focus extremes in perspective, vertiginous movement and multiple points of view. Each Kalatosov/Urusevsky take is an trapeze stunt, an athletic exercise in seeing how much life and world and experience can be crammed into a single camera take. This achievement's influence was tremendous, not only impacting on Tarkovsky but upon filmmakers all over eastern Europe, including the Hungarian masters Miklos Jancso and Bela Tarr, Greek epic-maker Theo Angelopoulos, Czech troublemaker Jan Nemec, and fellow Russians Sergei Bondarchuk, Alexei German, Larisa Shepitko and Alexander Sokurov. The interface with Kalatosov's films is so palpable in Tarkovsky's debut, Ivan's Childhood (1962), that the film comes off today as a product of the Khrushchev thaw fashion among Soviet filmmakers and not the work of a genius idiosyncrat – or, at least, the artist's formative launch into the feature-making industry. Either way, the film has a fascinating historical role to play, as the missing link between the typical-albeit-brilliant Soviet system drones of the day to the anti-state, pro-humanist, rule-decimating culture voice Tarkovsky would eventually exemplify. Like many firsttimers, Tarkovsky walked into someone else's project – Ivan's Childhood was an adaptation of a novel already in development at Mosfilm, when Tarkovsky and Andrei Konchalovsky were asked to rework the screenplay. Tarkovsky did in fact see it as a test – was he, after only a handful of student films (including a faithful adaptation of Hemingway's The Killers), up to the demands of filmmaking within the Soviet machine? Ivan is a WWII tale (then and for a long time a reliable source of righteous outrage and drama for the Soviets), focused often impressionistically on the experiences of a war-hardened, Nazi-orphaned 12-year-old boy (Nikolai Burlyaev) who runs missions as a scout across the Western front. Haughty and demanding, Ivan gives his adult soldier guardians hell, and if he sees himself now, despite rosy memories of country life with his mother, as a war hero, the officers in charge struggle with the decision of sending him back into the combat zone or away to the safety of a military school. Whenever Tarkovsky wrestles his characters free of an enclosed room and expository dialogue (all deftly handled in any case), his Kalatosovian wings spread: the compositions become alarming high-contrast, the shots grow longer and become mobile, the primal landscape stretches out indefinitely, a dazzlingly dense and optically disarming birch forest becomes more than just a setting but a cinematic visitation to another person's unforgettable experience. (Indeed, the film's key scenes, including the sadly beautiful climactic shot of a sun shower falling upon horses busy eating dropped apples on the beach, are reproductions of Tarkovsky's childhood memories.) Therein lies one of the film's most sublime orchestrations, whoever's style it might be derived from: a flirting Russian soldier and girl among the birches are shot on the move from close to the ground, and as they go to cross a trench, the camera dips down into the hole and gazes up at the couple, as the soldier catches the girl in mid-jump, his legs straddling the ditch, and kisses her. Like most of what's memorable of Soviet films from the thaw, Ivan's Childhood is a deeply humanist film, unspoiled by earnest flag-waving and simplistic nationalism, in the vivid and poetic way established by Poles like Andrzej Wajda just a few years earlier. (It's an inheritance from the Italian neo-realists, but the Communist nations' versions were never necessarily realistic.) Even so, it remains, in fact, the only Tarkovsky feature you could comfortably call "Soviet" – his next film, the historical pageant Andrei Rublev (1969), was so faithful in its depiction of medieval Russia that it sat on the shelf, censored, for several years. After that, Tarkovsky made films for a global audience, and for the eyes of the divine – he left the petty, ephemeral matter of ideologies and governments far behind (and never gained the favor of the Politburo), his films voyaging into outer space, metaphoric territories and hermetic inner spaces. He eventually went into self-imposed exile, to Italy and then Sweden, before dying of cancer at the age of 54. Still, the essential "Sovietness" of Ivan's Childhood is hardly a burden (the Khrushchev-initiated Soviet New Wave was one of the era's most fecund), and the movie remains one of the best ever made about the fate of children in wartime. For more information about Ivan's Childhood, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Ivan's Childhood, go to TCM Shopping. by Michael Atkinson

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Released in the U.S.S.R. in May 1962 as Ivanovo detstvo. Also known as Ivan's Childhood.

Miscellaneous Notes

Co-winner of the Golden Lion for Best Film at the 1962 Venice Film Festival.

Released in United States 1961

Released in United States on Video July 30, 1991

Released in United States September 1988

Released in United States September 2002

Re-released in United States 1980

Shown at 1961 Cannes Film Festival.

Shown at Toronto Festival of Festivals September 8-17, 1988.

Released in United States 1961 (Shown at 1961 Cannes Film Festival.)

Re-released in United States 1980

Released in United States on Video July 30, 1991

Released in United States September 1988 (Shown at Toronto Festival of Festivals September 8-17, 1988.)

Released in United States September 2002 (Shown in New York City (Walter Reade Theater) as part of "Tarkovsky at 70" retrospective September 13-27, 2002.)