VIOLIN AND ROLLER (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1960)

Called here Violin and Roller or The Steamroller and the Violin, Katok i skripka is an early film by Andrei Tarkovsky, to whose script (from a story by S. Bakhmetyeva) Andrei Konchalovsky contributed. This film school graduation project is primarily about the friendship that develops between Sergei, a young steamroller operator, and 7-year-old Sasha, whose protector Sergei becomes. Other children aren’t the only ones targeting Sasha for disapproval (over his artistic interest) until his association with Sergei makes him a neighborhood light. Worrying he is transported by music, his violin teacher cautions him to stop swaying from side to side when he plays. Unnecessarily fearful and autocratic, Sasha’s mother does her best to prohibit his relationship with Sergei. In different ways, both boy and man are tearing up the neighborhood, looking ahead to the future.
     Sasha has his heart set on a meeting with Sergei; but Sergei doesn’t show up, opting instead for a romantic date. Some may see this as some sort of betrayal; but the film, to its credit, doesn’t indulge such a theatrical import. Our vast, loose-ended lives simply cannot be contained by a single relationship, however much a child may depend on it. In retrospect, we realize that Sergei’s friendship with Sasha spoke to his own needs as well as the boy’s, empowering him out of his shyness as indeed it helped empower Sasha out of his. Human behavior is complex.
     For me, Katok i skripka is innocent and precious, sunlit and brightly colored, with lots of arty shots, and allusions to Bicycle Thieves and The Red Balloon. It’s an exercise, not a movie, and I found it hard to stay awake during its 43 minutes.
     I was most taken by a shot of an exquisite child’s tight, jewel-like braids.

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