Sections

’IVAN’ THE GREAT

Andrei Tarkovsky’s ’My Name is Ivan’ gets a rare screening at Galapagos

for The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

When Andrei Tarkovsky died in 1986, shortly after finishing his post-apocalyptic fantasy "The Sacrifice," he left behind a sturdy body of work that encompassed just seven feature films over a quarter-century.

Aficionados of the director included Ingmar Bergman, who himself towers over all other filmmakers of the past half-century, and who once said that Tarkovsky was "the greatest." Since Tarkovsky’s films are so rarely screened, most people haven’t been able to take a look for themselves. But, thanks to Ocularis at the Galapagos Art Space - whose Sunday film series includes two showings of Tarkovsky’s debut feature, 1962’s "My Name Is Ivan," on Oct. 7 at 7 pm and 9:30 pm - Brooklyn film lovers will get the chance to see for themselves just what to make of this intensely personal, profoundly Russian artist.

Many of our best movie directors began with a splash, then found it difficult to sustain the energy of their initial triumph: Orson Welles and "Citizen Kane" spring immediately to mind. But Tarkovsky, who started out as many do - with a somewhat autobiographical story - right from the beginning was able to plant the seeds of a more complex, even occasionally opaque style, that served him well for the next 25 years.

The Ivan of the movie’s title is a young boy, no more than 12 years old, who has been orphaned by the harshness and unrelenting grimness of World War II. Throughout a taut and tense 90 minutes, Ivan’s childhood is shown to be one of juxtaposition: here’s an immature kid who can act as a ruthless spy when called upon.

Tarkovsky’s use of stark black-and-white and several dream sequences and flashbacks create more contrasts: between the bleak, drained light and dark, and between the everyday reality of survival and the innocence of happier times. For a first feature, "My Name Is Ivan" is masterly, from Tarkovsky’s evocative choice of music and his precise editing to the extraordinarily moving performance he coaxes out of the brilliant young actor, Kolya Burlayev.

"My Name Is Ivan," of course, ends tragically, and the final frames of Ivan’s exhilaration are mercilessly cut short by the director. But throughout his career, Tarkovsky never flinched when confronted with showing mankind in all its flawed horribleness, as his six other features demonstrate. His very next film, the epic biography "Andrei Rubelev" (1966), was censored by the Soviets because it dared to present a multi-layered portrait of the great medieval Russian painter rather than the one-note political propaganda picture the authorities wanted.

His penultimate film, "Nostalghia" (1983), was an exploration of an expatriate’s soul - like Tarkovsky himself (who left Russia in the early 1980s after realizing he would never be allowed the artistic freedom he craved) - the movie’s protagonist lived outside Russia but yearned for the home to which he could never return.

Tarkovsky’s final film, "The Sacrifice" (1986), may have ended up preachy and often stultifyingly slow - it shows us the end of the world through the eyes of a family that’s already been mentally traumatized by simply living together - yet it’s filled with images of shattering beauty and rapturous spiritual affirmation.

If Tarkovsky doesn’t become popular outside of narrow film circles through such majestic works as "My Name Is Ivan" and "Andrei Rubelev," perhaps his name will be made more recognizable through the announced remake of his towering sci-fi epic "Solaris" (1971). That crass populist director James ("Titanic") Cameron is supposedly giving it a go, but remaking "Solaris" is a folly along the lines of remaking "2001": they are singular films of ideas, of thought and sophistication and, yes, genius, not just gadget-laden space operas, which is Cameron’s usual modus operandi.

"My Name Is Ivan," at least, will never be remade; as most great films do, it speaks a language unto itself, but it does so with a clarity that viewers of any stripe will understand.

"My Name Is Ivan" will be screened on Oct. 7 at 7 pm and 9:30 pm at Galapagos Art and Performance Space, 70 North Sixth St. in Williamsburg. Admission is $6. For more information, visit www.ocularis.net on the Web or call (718) 388-8713.

Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reasonable discourse

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Don’t miss out!

Stay in touch with the stories people are talking about in your neighborhood:

Optional: Help us tailor our newsletters to you!