This is the first of Andrei Tarkovsky's seven feature films, when at the age of 30 he was trying to establish himself as a director. It won the Golden Lion at Venice. It is a film made and financed in the totalitarian Soviet state, but manages to distance itself at least partially from the official views. Of course the Soviet soldiers are shown to be consistently good hearted and reasonable.
It is the story of 12 year old Ivan, whose family has been wiped out by the invading Germans. He has a ferocious hatred. He behaves and talks and thinks like a grown up man as he seeks vengeance against the "fritzes". The film mixes dream and reality to examine the workings of the mind of this grotesque product of the scourge of war. While his family members have been killed he too is a wasteland who cannot see beyond the hatred born out of his experience.
He is a pitifully deformed offspring of the un-naturalness of war. The dreams and memories of his earlier life before the loss of his family break like lightening flashes through his present inferno. There is something awesome in his consuming hatred, portraying an inner energy which in more nurturesome circumstances could have blossomed into something different.
Or is it an incarnation of Apu ?