Andrei TarkovskyUSSR95 minutes1962B&WRussian
"Tarkovsky arrived ... almost with the éclat of the young Orson Welles" (Mark Le Fanu) with his first feature, about a vengeful 12-year-old partisan who undertakes a suicide mission as a spy behind German lines during WWII. Announcing many of his themes (memory, war, the struggle for belief and humanity in the midst of barbarism), aesthetic strategies (dream sequences, flashbacks, use of newsreels), and visual motifs (ruins, trees, horses, apples, water, fire) and concentrating on the bleak landscape of birches, frozen swamps, and rutted fields with a kind of pantheistic fervour, Tarkovsky also makes the face of the martyred Ivan into an indelible image of innocence transformed by brutality. ("He is mad, he is a monster. He is a little hero. In truth he is the most innocent and touching victim of the war," wrote Jean-Paul Sartre of Tarkovsky's young protagonist.) "The most auspicious debut in Soviet cinema [since] Eisenstein's Strike" (J. Hoberman, The New York Times).