A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Ivan's Childhood (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1962)

Ivan Bondarev: Nikolay Burlyaev
Leonid Kholin: Valentin Zubkov
Galtsev: Evgeniy Zharikov
Katasonov: Stepan Krylov
Gryaznov: Nikolay Grinko
Old Man: Dmitri Milyutenko
Masha: Valentina Malyavina
Ivan's Mother: Irina Tarkovskaya
Soldier With Glasses: Andrey Konchalovskiy

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Screenplay: Vladimir Bogomolov, Mikhail Papava
Based on a story by Vladimir Bogomolov
Cinematography: Vadim Yusov
Production design: Evgeniy Chernyaev
Film editing: Lyudmila Feyginova
Music: Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov

There are scenes in Ivan's Childhood that wouldn't work in the hands of almost any other director than Andrei Tarkovsky. The famous scene in the birch forest, in which Kholin straddles a trench and kisses Masha while dangling her over it is completely extraneous to Ivan's story, as are almost all the scenes in which Masha, the physician's assistant, appears. And Tarkovsky never falls into the trap of sentimentality in the dream sequences, including the film's ending. In fact, I think it's a mistake to call them "dream sequences" -- they mostly avoid the conventions of movie dreams like odd angles or camera tricks or surreal elements. They're really memory pieces, explorations of the other side of Ivan's childhood, the innocent years of peace, poetically interpolated into the harshness of war. In fact, the "real" sequences are often more dreamlike than the memories: the dizzying ghostlike trunks of the birch trees, the flares falling silently like meteorites, the spiky war ruins that threaten to impale. It's a heartbreaking film because Tarkovsky refuses to pull out all the melodramatic stops but lets his images speak for themselves and because Nikolay Burlyaev performs with such conviction as Ivan, in one of the greatest performances by a child ever captured on film. It's probably the most poetic war film ever made because the war recedes into the background as a thing remembered.

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