The Steamroller and the Violin is a relatively unknown student film made in 1960 by the eminent Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. If anyone knows the work of Tarkovsky they will be familiar with the fact that he makes relatively long films, which are reflective in nature and are often predicated on long slow takes. While this film does have the reflective nature of his other films it is only 45 minutes long and moves along rather quickly.
The basic premise is about the unlikely friendship that begins between a little boy (Igor Fomchenko) and a city worker (Vladimir Zamansky) who is paving the street outside the boy's apartment home. It starts when the man protects the boy from some of the neighborhood bullies. From there the film shows in elliptical fashion the development of their friendship.
With a title like The Steamroller and the Violin don't be surprised if you catch yourself waiting for the steamroller to run over the violin. In an age of Hollywood films it's hard not to have that frame of mind. But fortunately the film is not that simple. Instead it is a smart, compassionate story about the goodness of the working class and the innocence of childhood.
With this film Tarkovsky proved that he had a significant amount of filmmaking talent. Particularly with his use of camera angles and the way he fills each frame with movement. Notable too is the taut editing and transitions between the scenes and the naturalistic performances from his leading actors.
The audio is mono and sounds okay.
The film is presented 1.33 to 1 and looks fair to good. There are many scratches on the print and it's fairly safe to say that Facets didn't have access to a restored print. But despite the poor print quality the colors have a saturated 1950's style look to them, which helps bathe the film in a particular (lets say Soviet utopian) nostalgia.
The only extras are a biography of Andrei Tarkovsky that you can scroll through for 12 screens and a complete list of films Tarkovsky made and the awards he received throughout his short career. The film itself would have made a good extra on one of his longer films. There are ten chapters.
Whether you are a fan of Andrei Tarkovsky or not The Steamroller and the Violin is worth a look. It is set up as a simple children's tale but has a lot more complexity and subtly than a good number of 'grown-up' films that deal with the subject of atypical friendships.