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When Nazi invaders destroy his Russian village and kill his family, twelve year old Soviet orphan Ivan Bondarev works for the Soviet army as a scout behind the German lines and strikes a friendship with three sympathetic Soviet officers.
[A] subdued depiction of warfare as mostly a lot of waiting around for brief explosive action... The orphan kid - who several times describes himself as 'jittery' - is a more openly shell-shocked version of all the adults around him.
While the emotional weight of Ivan is clear from the first frames -- Tarkovsky doesn't stray from making us feel the pain of Ivan's world -- there is that sense of music the director is so intent on conveying.