This debut feature-length wartime drama by noted Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky was a remarkable introduction to a remarkable career. The poetic touch of Tarkovsky's hand and his measured pace is already evident as the tale of the young, twelve-year-old Ivan (Nikolai Burlyayev) evolves. Ivan is orphaned after his village is wiped out by an invading Nazi army and as a consequence, he ends up in a prison camp. The inventive lad escapes and is adopted by Captain Kholin (Valentin Zubkov), whose intention is to send the boy away to school. But Ivan is determined to help the Russian army and so he starts spying on the German forces. Because of his tender years he manages to pass freely back and forth behind enemy lines -- at least for awhile. This exemplary film won the top prize, the Golden Lion award at the 1962 Venice Film Festival and also won the Grand Prize at the 1962 San Francisco Film Festival.
by Eleanor Mannikka synopsis