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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • Russian PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Appreciation of filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky and Ivan's Childhood featuring Vida T. Johnson, coauthor of The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue
  • Interviews with cinematographer Vadim Yusov and actor Nikolai Burlyaev

Ivan's Childhood

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Andrei Tarkovsky
Starring: Nikolai Burlyaev, Valentin Zubkov, Nikolai Grinko
1962 | 95 Minutes | Licensor: Mosfilm

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #397
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: January 22, 2013
Review Date: March 10, 2013

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SYNOPSIS

The debut feature from the great Andrei Tarkovsky, Ivan's Childhood is an evocative, poetic journey through the shadows and shards of one boy's war-torn youth. Moving back and forth between the traumatic realities of WWII and the serene moments of family life before the conflict began, Tarkovsky's film remains one of the most jarring and unforgettable depictions of the impact of violence on children in wartime.

Forum members rate this film 8.7/10

 

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PICTURE

Criterion surprisingly upgrades Andrei Tarkovsky’s first feature film Ivan’s Childhood to Blu-ray, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc. The transfer is delivered in 1080p/24hz.

Though the Blu-ray doesn’t window box the image similar to the DVD’s presentation, it appears the transfer delivered here is the same high-definition one used for that release. Contrast and gray levels still look a little off to me, as though contrast has been boosted, and grays lean more on the silver side, but the transfer is otherwise a strong one. Both long shots and close-ups deliver a remarkable amount of detail, from the textures in birch trees to the threads of the various sweaters that appear. Edges are cleanly defined, and film grain, which is surprisingly fine, is rendered well.

As with the DVD the print is in excellent shape, with only a few minor problems like that odd spec of dirt and the occasional tram line being a slight nuisance during the main portions of the film. Some archival footage is used at the end of the film that presents heavier damage, but this is expected and not of too big of a concern.

The original DVD’s transfer still holds up rather well, despite the window-boxing, though the Blu-ray offers a noticeable upgrade, delivering a noticeably more film-like image.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Criterion delivers the original Russian mono track in lossless linear PCM. I couldn’t detect a significant improvement over the DVD’s Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track, but it was a fairly decent track to begin with. Though music can be a bit flat, the rest of the track, from dialogue to sound effects, actually do deliver a bit more depth and range.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion carries all of the supplements over from the DVD, starting with Life As a Dream, a 31-minute interview with Vida T. Johnson. Johnson begins by talking about Russian cinema after Stalin’s death and the brief period where films contained less propaganda and focused more on individual characters, a significant change especially for war films which were certainly more “patriotic” so to speak. She then covers Tarkovsky’s time in school, how he came to work on Ivan’s Childhood (which was a studio film in works for a while,) and how the project changed once it got into his hands. From here she examines some of the traits that would become familiar in Tarkovsky’s later work while also looking at some of the more conventional things that can be found in the film, She then interestingly gets into how Tarkovsky got around the “approval process” Soviet films had to go through. The piece can be a little dry in places but overall offers a strong analysis of Tarkovsky’s early film.

The remaining supplements are interviews with actor Nikolai Burlyaev (who played Ivan) and cinematographer Vadim Yusov. I appreciate the inclusion of these two interviews though they’re presented in an odd, rather obnoxious manner. Each one is chopped up into multiple segments that you have to select from a listing, without the option to “play all.” Burlyaev’s is broken up into the following pieces: “Lead Role,” “Screen Tests,” “Finding Tears,” “The Shoot,” and “True Patriot.” They’re all pretty self-explanatory, but Burlyaev really focuses on his working relationship with Tarkovsky, who he says really helped him bring out the performance he delivered, despite the director being accused by others of never working with his actors. Yuslov’s interview is broken down into the following segments: “Visual Language,” “Preparation,” “Dreams,” and “Texture.” Again the titles are self-explanatory, with Yuslov just covering how he and Tarkovsky captured the visuals in the film. Again, both interviews are fine, with Burlyaev’s especially touching in places, but I wasn’t a fan of the fragmented set-up. In total each piece runs 11-minutes and 12-minutes respectively.

The same booklet is then carried over with the same essay by Dina Iordanova and a translated reprint of a piece about the film written by Tarkovsky in 1962. The booklet then concludes with a translation of a poem by Tarkovsky’s father, Arseny Tarkovsky, which was probably an influence over the film.

The supplements are okay, though slim. As a lower-tier DVD release it was fine, but with the higher price of the Blu-ray (with an MSRP of $39.95) the supplements aren’t particularly impressive.

5/10

CLOSING

The image looks more natural and loses the window-boxing found on the DVD, but the edition doesn’t offer much else in the way of improvements and seems over-priced with less than an hour’s worth of material. Fine enough but not much else.


View packaging for this Blu-ray

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