Clare's Criterion Collection

Here Is My Criterion Collection. See What I Have Bought & Read My Reviews. Follow Me As I Explore My Collection.

Ballad Of A Soldier – Review # 13

Spine # 148

Available on DVD

Special Features:

  • New digital transfer
  • Interview with director Grigori Chukhrai and stars Vladimir Ivashov and Zhanna Prokhorenko, conducted after a preview screening in New York
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • Optimal image quality; RSDL dual-layer edition

    New cover by William Logan and Amy Hoisington

Please note that whilst I try to not give away vital plot details/scenes/developments of the film, some reviews may contain mild spoilers.

Review

The film opens to a bleak landscape and sadly, the all too familiar story of loss during war. I have had a few days to replay this film over in my mind and when I think about our young soldier, Alyosha, a word that continually appears is loyalty.

He is loyal to his country.  Aged only 19 he is fighting for Russia during WWII, the time period for this film.  He is a hero and his reward is a commendation from the General, though he forgoes this honour.  Why you may ask, that I cannot tell.  In order to find out you must watch the film.

He shows loyalty to his Mother.  He is in a dangerous place, the Russian Front fighting the Germans yet he wants to leave, not as a deserter to the surrounding horrors, no, he wants to leave so he can go home and help his Mother, the roof is leaking and needs to be fixed.

Loyalty is not his only endearing quality.  Throughout the film he shows kindness to others, going out of his way to help even though the clock is ticking.  He even found the time for a little romance, once the over-dramatic young lady (Shura), who I would have pushed from the moving train, calmed down.  The train guard provides a few laughs and even though he lied I felt no malice towards him.  It is due to his actions that a memorable quote is made:

“It’s so pleasant when you think badly of someone, only to discover that he’s good”.

As Alyosha’s journey continues we encounter everyday civilians going about their lives.  On the surface it all seems quite normal yet there are subtle reminders that not too far away a war is raging, be it a wounded soldier or a lady selling her possessions in order to survive

Later in the film there is a scene that reminds me how destructive man can be.  The train passes by a forest of birch trees, very similar to the one seen in Ivan’s Childhood.  As a nature lover, this is a beautiful sight.  It made me think about all the senseless destruction man has done, not only to forests but to the planet as a whole.  In my mind this is an example of the woeful disregard for life shown before, during and sadly since WWII.

I immensely enjoyed the few days we spent with our young soldier.  This is a simple but highly emotive film and one I wholly recommend to you all.

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Ivan’s Childhood – Review # 1

Criterion Collection Spine # 397
Available in DVD and Blu-Ray
Special features:  
  • New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Interview with film scholar Vida T. Johnson, coauthor of The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue
  • New interviews with cinematographer Vadim Yusov and actor Nikolai Burlyaev
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film scholar Dina Iordanova; “Between Two Films,” an essay by Tarkovsky on Ivan’s Childhood; and “Ivan’s Willow,” a poem by the director’s father, Arseny Tarkovsky 
  • New cover by Neil Kellerhouse

Please note that whilst I try to not give away vital plot details/scenes/developments of the film, some reviews may contain mild spoilers.

Review

What a fantastic way to start off my Criterion adventure.  Not only was Ivan’s Childhood my debut but also the Director of this film.  Andrei Tarkovsky announced himself to the world with this journey through war-torn Russia, set during WWII.

Ivan’s Childhood follows a boy who, due to his young age and small size, is used by the Russian army to infiltrate enemy lines and carry out sabotage and reconnaissance missions.  It is after one of these missions that we are introduced to Ivan, a young Lieutenant called Galtsev and Captain Kholin, under whose command Ivan works.  Ivan and the Captain share a special relationship and Ivan is pleased to do his share for the Russian army.

As the film progresses, and despite all the horrors he witnesses, we see Ivan desperate to stay with his comrades, to help his fellow Russians in the fight against Germany.  Captain Kholin has other ideas though and wants to send Ivan to Military School, keep him away from the immediate surrounding danger.  Circumstance dictates one final mission for Ivan and the Unit as they cross the river that separates them from the enemy.

For me the most poignant aspect of the film were the flashbacks shown throughout.  These were mainly of Ivan and his Mother, with the final one being with his Sister.  Carefree moments shared between a Mother, Child & Sibling, the type of moments that should fill a childhood.

Overall, Ivan’s Childhood is an excellent, realistic view of war through the eyes of a child.

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