Ivan is very good, even excellent, but agitated, troubled; its emphatic acting and flourishes of avant-garde editing—several times, a snippet of film will be repeated over and over in succession—don’t always serve the film well. It is a noble work, with a noble and highly unusual theme: that in order to ensure the future success of the nation, laborers must work not only hard and spiritedly, as youth are inclined to do, but also competently, efficiently, skillfully. The arrogance of youth must yield to the rigor of training and learning, for the industrial environment makes demands and holds sudden dangers beyond those that one encounters on a farm. Every worker is precious, vital; workers must know what they are doing in order to survive and to ensure that the young nation will also survive and prevail.
The central character is an unschooled teenaged farm boy. He and his father, along with numerous others there, must leave, for the success of their farm work—in retrospect, a grim inadvertent irony—makes their agricultural tenure superfluous. The boy and his father and others thus leave their country village to participate in the Dnieper River dam-building project. Ivan is eager to prove himself. His first industrial labor takes strength, which he possesses in abundance; he is pounding spikes in the building of a railroad. In a marvelous subjective-expressionistic montage we see the boy, aglow, drinking in the applause that he imagines his labor entitles him to. But his work is deemed “sloppy” by the foreman, deflating the boy, who resorts to another adolescent fantasy—but this one, instead of preening, anxious: himself, standing, explaining to a seated committee that the foreman hadn’t even inspected his work. The film patiently tracks the boy’s progress as he himself comes to realize his need to submit to the discipline of training and education. At the end, we see him, along with countless other youth, in a huge lecture hall—a scene that indicates the “book-learning” that must precede his becoming a responsible crane operator. Thus Dovzhenko, a former science teacher, is able to end Ivan on a note celebrating education and the trainability of youth.
DVD-R IS IN RUSSIAN WITH SWITCHABLE ENGLISH SUBTITLES.
QUALITY (of feature film only): digital quality; there are some minor dropouts (i.e., missing film) in the movie; but nothing which spoils the overall film
LENGTH OF FEATURE FILM: 85 mins