The titular character in Ivan’s Childhood is perpetually surrounded by pointed objects that obscure the frames and make him look obscured or small, as opposed to the beautiful opening sequence where he flying in the sky, nothing in his way until the noises of war wake him up. He reaches out to touch the camera in a later sleeping scene, but it remains as intangible as the star he sees in the well, a deep chasm that leads to what I can only describe as underground bunkers in some sort of war that Tarkovsky renders as practically nuclear in how the misery of the pitch black wilds appear. It’s a fitting setting for a child who has to talk and act like he is an adult, pleading his usefulness after a mission goes badly for him and he has to be picked up by a father figure who gives him booze. He gets told that combat is not for him when he attempts to run away before they put him in a military school, but when you are this surrounded by death and grime, is it any wonder that he would turn to the one thing that could potentially give comfort, where he can ignorantly believe he is his own boss?
We leave the poor child alone for a little while as we wind up stuck in a forest of ghostly white trees and trenches where a blank girl named Masha receives the seduction attempts of several high ranking men in the army in abuses of power. It may be a slightly pointless subplot, but the depth of feeling that it inspires it the sort of poetry I expect to see plenty of throughout this retrospective of Tarkovsky. And the sequence where she hangs over the trench, kissed by a man she does not care for, before running through the forest is just appallingly gorgeous.
We return to Ivan and eventually get caught up in his pointless, doomed quest for revenge against a nation that has already left some awfully grim messages right in plain sight with regards to their capturing and murder. He rants at no one in particular about a trial that will not happen on the side he wants it to, for the final beat fells this poor victim, finally treating him as the adult he so badly wished he was for all the wrong reasons to do so.