May 27, 2008

1st June 2008; Screening of Tarkovsky's Ivan's Childhood

In the entire history of cinema there has never been a director,
who has made such a dramatic stand for the human spirit
as did Andrei Tarkovsky.

Ivan's Childhoood
A film by Andrei Takovsky
Country : Soviet Union
Year 1962
Russian with English sub titles
Run time : 95 minutes
Ashwin Hospital
1st June 2008 ; 5.45 pm

When I discovered the first films of Tarkovsky, it was a miracle. I suddenly found myself before a door to which I had never had the key.a room which I had always wished to penetrate and wherein he felt perfectly at ease. Someone was able to express what I had always wished to say without knowing how. For me Tarkovsky is the greatest filmmaker
- Ingmar Bergman

Ivan's Childhood was Tarkovsky's first feature film and won him critical acclaim and made him known internationally. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1962 and the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1962.

Perhaps no other filmmaker can be said to have equalled the breathtaking beauty and cinematic genius of the opening sequence of Ivan's childhood, the movements of the elaborate crane shots tracing the director's inimitable signature, an example of his matchless skill at 'sculpting in time'.

On an idyllic summer day, a 12 year old boy named Ivan (Nikolai Burlyayev) ventures into the woods and spots a cuckoo. He begins to levitate above the forest, rejoins his mother (Irma Raush Tarkovskaya), and begins to share his discovery. Then the peaceful reunion between mother and son is truncated by Ivan's rude awakening to the sound of mortar firing. Suddenly, it is evening, and a hungry, weary Ivan awakens in the attic of an empty windmill. The surreal episode proves to be an intangible dream. Resuming his reconnaissance mission, Ivan then crosses a treacherous swamp amidst enemy fire. Unable to rendezvous with his contact, Corporal Katasonych (Stepan Krylov), Ivan arrives at an alternate Russian bunker, where his credentials are immediately questioned by the ranking officer, Lieutenant Galtsev (Yevgeni Zharikov). Despite his skepticism, Galtsev calls Ivan's superior, Colonel Gryaznov (Nikolai Grinko), who confirms his identity, dispatches Captain Kholin (Valentin Zubkov) to bring him back to headquarters. Gryaznov has taken an interest in the welfare of the young orphan, and has decided to enroll him in a military academy, reasoning that war has no place for children. Ivan refuses to leave, and argues that his age and stealth make him an ideal scout for their missions. Unable to persuade his superiors, Ivan runs away from the barracks, only to find a ravaged, desolate wasteland outside its walls. With nowhere left to turn, he returns with his superiors back to camp. However, despite the officers' reluctance, Ivan is enlisted for a final mission as they prepare for another covert operation.

Andrei Tarkovsky presents an austere, bleak and haunting portrait of lost innocence in Ivan's Childhood. As regards the immediate influence of Ivan's Childhood, or its importance, one need look no further than the words of the great Georgian filmmaker Sergei Paradjanov: "I did not know how to do anything and I would not have done anything if there had not been Ivan's Childhood." Kieslowski made similar pronouncements and we can see how all three directors shared an obsession with the elements and with injecting objects with a magical epiphanic quality - preoccupations which can be traced back to Tarkovsky's debut feature.

Andrei Tarkovsky

April 4, 1932 - December 29, 1986

"Art is born and takes hold wherever there is a timeless and insatiable longing for the spiritual."
- Andrei Tarkovsky

Andrei Tarkovsky is the most influential Soviet filmmaker of the post-war era, and one of the world's most renowned cinematic geniuses. He created spiritual, existential films of incredible beauty, repeatedly returning to themes of memory, dreams and childhood . Although Tarkovksy directed only seven feature films during his twenty-year active career, he is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers of the late 20th century . His films, such as Stalker , Solaris, Mirror, Nostalghia and The Sacrifice make use of long, unedited shots and wide angles in uncompromisingly formalistic statements that are as striking today as they were when they were first made.

Tarkovsky was born in the village of Zavrazhye in Kostroma Province in Soviet Union as the child of the poet and translator Arseny Alexandrovich Tarkovsky and Maria Ivanova Vishnyakova, a graduate of the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute. After high school graduation, from 1951 to 1952, Tarkovsky studied Arabic at the Oriental Institute in Moscow, In 1954 Tarkovsky joined the State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) to the film-directing-program. He was in the same class as Irma Raush, whom he married in April 1957.

Tarkovsky also worked extensively as a screenwriter, film editor, film theorist and theater director. He directed most of his films in the Soviet Union, with the exception of his last two films which were produced in Italy and Sweden. His films are characterized by Christian spirituality and metaphysical themes, extremely long takes, lack of conventional dramatic structure and plot, and memorable images of exceptional beauty.

Each of Tarkovsky's films has its own dreamlike inner coherence, but a number of images remain constant from film to film, acting as unifying links and providing clues to the cinematic language Tarkovsky created.

Poetic Reasoning - Whereas Eisenstein had utilized the theories of montage to create artificial links between images where there were none, Tarkovsky applied laws of "poetic reasoning" to the creation of his films from Andrei Rublev onward. Tarkovsky felt his task was to unveil relationships between images and events as created and set into motion by God, rather than imposing relationships upon filmgoers in order to manipulate them into a prescribed point of view. Tarkovsky was especially drawn to the internal logic of Japanese haiku, wherein three very different images are combined to form a whole much larger than the parts.

Tarkovsky died on December 29, 1986 in Paris at age 54. He was buried on January 3, 1987 in the Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois in France. The inscription on his grave stone, which was created by the Russian sculptor Ernst Neizvestny, reads ‘ To the man who saw the Angel ’.

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