Andrei Rublev by Andrei Tarkovsky (1966) is filled with strange and unsettling images. Featuring Russia’s greatest icon painter, Andrei Rublev was banned for five years in its home country. However the film won the International Critics Prize at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival, even acceptance from other festivals. The story is set in a period of instability and chaos where rival princes fight and and the country is hit by tatar invasions. It is the 2nd feature film and is what you would expect of a Tarkovsky film; Artistic cinematography (film as an Art) , Visual brilliance and stunning imagery, and Metaphysical themes.
“Andrei Rublev is the most Russian of films, emblematic of what everyone finds so fascinating and so maddening in the way Russians do things,” – Robert Bird, Andrei Rublev. As Nigel Savio D’Sa once wrote, the Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky was especially interested in the relationship between art and religious experience. This concern is exemplified in his 1966 feature Andrei Rublev. It was Tarkovsky’s belief that art should have a metaphysical function, urging the observer to strive with “the crucial questions of his existence and, at its most sublime, to be expressive of the Transcendent and induce in the beholder what can be called a Religious Epiphany. (Nigel Savio D’Sa, Andrei Rublev: Religious Epiphany in art.)
Although the story of the film, follows an iconographic Russian painter, it doesn’t show anyone painting. It was as if Rublev was not the focus of the story as he was almost not present in most parts of the film. The film focused on observing the surroundings of the artist whether it’s people, buildings and nature. Even when surrounded by historical monuments, Tarkovsky made them look like everyday buildings so as to achieve a natural and realistic look. “We wanted the objects of material culture to be perceived from the screen just as the things that surround us in daily life are perceived. In this respect everything in the film is absolutely precise.” (Andrei Tarkovsky, Nostalghia)
As the story progresses, it is not difficult to find the main character surrounded by suffering. Such was seen in the film as Rublev observed suffering peasants, the capture of a jester, the eye-gouging of artisans and the raid on Vladimir by the grand prince’s brother, until finally, killing a man with his own hands which caused him to undergo a vow of silence. Tarkovsky raises questions about power, suffering, theology, and art in a richer fashion than any other filmmaker. (Matthew Dessem, Andrei Rublev)
“An artist never works under ideal conditions. If they existed, his work wouldn’t exist, for the artist doesn’t live in a vacuum. Some sort of pressure must exist. The artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn’t look for harmony but would simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world. This is the issue in Andrei Rublev.” – Andrei Tarkovsky
There are two famous scenes in Andrei Rublev. The first, being the burning of a cow, and the second, a horse falling from a flight of stairs and being stabbed by a spear. This led to a argument on animal abuse. Fortunately, it was explained that the cow was burned at all and that the horse was to slaughtered the next day even if they didn’t use the horse. Speaking of horses, they were used a great deal in this film. “And then there are the horses, Tarkovsky’s perennial favourite: horses rolling over, horses charging into battle, swimming in the river, falling down stairs, dragging men out of churches.” (Steve Rose, Andrei Tarkovsky)
Some of the shots in Andrei Rublev were stunning. A snow scene in the film exudes a sense of serenity amidst the chaos. A scene where a peasant fly on balloons, added a dream-like quality to the film which represented harsh reality.
Tarkovsky is an admirer of Akira Kurosaw and Ingmar Bergman, with the latter hailing him as “the most important director of all time”. Even Sergei Parajanov dedicated “Ashik Kerib” to Tarkovsky, proving once again, that Tarkovsky is a good influence and inspiration to filmmakers.
Tarkovsky’s cinematography is particularly amazing in this film. Vadim Yusov and Tarkovsky are geniues when it comes to camera movement. There are shots in Andrei Rublev that can rival to Scorcese or Welles at their most elaborate. For example, there is a shot towards the end of the film , during a sequence in which a cathedral bell is about to be raised from the hole in which it had just been cut. The one continuous shot is just superb and showcases Tarkovsky eye for detail and perfection. The scene varies incredibly in scale throughout and the tracking of the camera is unlike many directors. It feels inhuman as the camera seems to pick up a geometric shape in the image (the lines of the cables, or the roofbeams, or the bridge) and tracks it until a more interesting line to follow appears.
About the Author: Karen is a student who requires more direction and sense, as well as sleep.
1. Chronicle.uchicago.edu. 2005. Andrei Rublev: The study of a visually stunning movie, depicting that which cannot be filmed. [online] Available at: http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/050303/rublev.shtml [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].
2. Dessem, M. 2005. The Criterion Contraption: #34: Andrei Rublev. [online] Available at: http://criterioncollection.blogspot.sg/2005/07/34-andrei-rublev.html [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].
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5. People.ucalgary.ca. 1967. [ Nostalghia.com | The Topics :: Aleksandr Lipkov interviews Tarkovsky (On Andrei Rublev) ]. [online] Available at: http://people.ucalgary.ca/~tstronds/nostalghia.com/TheTopics/PassionacctoAndrei.html [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].
6. The Criterion Collection. 1960. Andrei Rublev. [online] Available at: http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/43-andrei-rublev [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].
7. the Guardian. 2010. Andrei Rublev: the best arthouse film of all time. [online] Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/oct/20/andrei-rublev-tarkovsky-arthouse [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].
8. Unomaha.edu. 1999. Journal of Religion and Film: Andrei Rublev: Religious Epiphany in Art by Nigel Savio D’Sa. [online] Available at: http://www.unomaha.edu/jrf/saviodsa.htm [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].