Saturday, June 10, 2006
The Steamroller and the Violin (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1960)
Andrei Tarkovsky's diploma short film, Katok i skripka (The Steamroller and the Violin), is a heartfelt and visually-impressive melding of fantasy and realism. Seven-year-old Sasha (an affecting young Igor Fomchenko) is a boy ridiculed in his neighborhood for playing violin. The opening sequence follows him as he hides from bullies and gradually makes his way to his lesson, where fear of adult authority mixes with puppy love regarding another music student. On his way home, Sasha is saved from more bullying by construction worker Sergey (a lightly macho Vladimir Zamansky). Sergey takes the boy on an eye-opening journey through the lower class streets. Sasha learns to defend himself and protect those smaller than him, and he brightens while watching and hearing the melody of a building being demolished. Sasha wants to see a movie with Sergey later that evening, but Sasha's overbearing single mother thwarts his plans. Sergey goes to the movies with a girlfriend, and Sasha sits in his room, contemplating escape on a steamroller.
Tarkovsky's 50-minute slice of life avoids the trappings of childhood films with naturalistic performances and a unique visual sense. Mirrors and reflections in water show Sasha and Sergey new dimensions of their chosen fields, as each character reassesses the worth of his life. Sasha is in awe of the sound and power of Sergey's vehicle, while the soothing tenor of Sasha's violin seems to bring harmony, if but for an instant, to Sergey's world. It is amazing how much depth the film contains in such a short span of time. The conclusion, a powerful flight of fancy by Sasha, is a capstone to his dream of wish fulfillment on his own terms, whether with a violin, on a steamroller, or both.
"The Steamroller and the Violin" IMDb page