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Andrei Rublev (alternately transliterated as Andrei Rublyov) is an epic film
created by the Soviet-era director, Andrei Tarkovsky. It was financed and
created during a brief cultural thaw in East-West relations, marked by the
end of Kruschchev's reign. Within reason, the 205 minute director's cut
represents exactly what Tarkovsky wanted in the movie. Unfortunately for
Tarkovsky and for us, Kruschev was deposed shortly after filming began, and
the 205 minute version was not seen until twenty five years after its
creation. The Breszhnev-era censors first trimmed 15 minutes from it, then
censors and marketers trimmed more. The shortest known version has been
truncated to 145 minutes. Even more sadly, Tarkovsky was never again to get
approval for the projects he really wanted to film, or an adequate budget to
film the ones that did get approved.
Fortunately for us, this movie, recently rereleased in a DVD transferred from a pristine 35mm print, may now be viewed intact, and it is one of the great triumphs of mankind's stay on the planet. It is a masterpiece almost without flaw. The beautiful painterly images follow one another in breathtaking succession. At least three of the eight chapters, if taken individually, could stand alone as separate masterpieces.
The ostensible subject is the life of Andrei Rublev, a 15th century monk who is renowned as Russia's greatest creator of religious icons and frescoes. Rublev himself, however, is merely a useful device. Little is known about him, and most of the episodes in the movie come straight from Tarkovsky's imagination of what might have been. Sometimes one must ignore the facts to get to the truth.
The movie is not about one talented monk, but about Russia, and Rublev stands in as a useful symbol since he lived in a time when he could personally witness two of the key elements in the development of Russia's unique culture: the growing force of Byzantine Christianity, and the Mongol-Tatar invasions. In addition he was an artist and a thinker, and experienced first-hand the difficulty of following those paths in Russia. Rublev's own inner conflicts allow the filmmaker to illuminate thoughts on the pagan and the sacred, the nature of art, the relationship of the artist to the state, what it means to be Russian, and what it means to be human.
It is beautiful, mystical, and profound, but the truly inspiring aesthetics are matched with complete technical wizardry. I simply don't know how some of the shots were created. One I do understand, and stand in awe of, is a continuous single camera shot, just before the church door is breached by Tatar invaders, which involves action in several different locations at multiple elevations as well as the correct timing of hundreds of extras and horses. It makes the first scene of Touch of Evil look like a high school film project.
It is a difficult movie to follow. One might liken it to James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake as a work of genius so monumental and complex, and so disdainful of traditional narrative form, that it requires extensive thought and study to understand it. And even after studying it, watching it repeatedly, and reading Tarkovsky's own comments about it, one still finds it opaque in many ways.
Tarkovsky was free to create the work of art he wanted, without concern for profit. The original 205 minute cut was also free from outside censorship. He used this freedom to realize his personal artistic vision. There is no other movie like it, and there may never be. Score it 11 out of 10.
Some historical knowledge will definitely not hurt while watching this
The medieval society was deeply religious. The church influenced every aspect of people's lives from birth to death and was part of the state. It means religious leaders were as important as rulers.
In Russian society men were wearing beards and women covered hairs. Remove a beard from a man or uncover woman's hair and you will humiliate them, they would feel like modern people being undressed in public.
Paganism is a form of religion, where people believe in many gods instead of one. The main Russian pagan gods are the goddess of the earth and the god of the sun. Among others - the god of storms and lightning, the mythical young women living in forests and rivers. Despite many centuries of suppression of paganism by authorities some in modern Russia still celebrate the feast of Ivan Kupala (which could be translated as Ivan Gathering) depicted in the movie.
Also I have to mention, that Soviet censors told Tarkovski the movie is too cruel. They told him the scene with a burning cow, for example, is absolutely unacceptable. Tarkovski tried to defend the movie. The cow wasn't harmed, was his reasoning. Still the film was cut. The censors knew better what is good and what is not for the viewer.
This brings us to what is the message of Tarkovski in this film. There are many messages actually. I'll be telling only about one here, because it is not hidden. It is there, in the dispute between Rublov and Theophanes The Greek. They both are talented, both want to bring people to humanity. Theophanes is tired, he says - common people live in darkness, they are completely consumed by sin and the only way to make them humans is to scare them and punish them. Rublov advocates for love. He says: people live very difficult life, it's amazing how they endure it. We have to love them, to remind them, they are humans, they are Russians. You see, the first is the position of the Soviet system, the second - of Jesus Christ.
Me? I'm still sitting on the fence. :)
I recommend to watch this movie many times. You will do it without my recommendation though, if you (like me) will not understand everything from the first view and you like to think. The mesmerizing beauty of this movie will help you to return easier. For the first time be prepared for not a cakewalk. There are two things to consider here. One is the cruelty. Though it is absolutely necessary in this film, most of us living in a comfort of modern society are not ready to it. The other is the pace. Often it is a pace of real life.
"Andrei Rublev" is not merely my favourite all-time film; it transcends such
pat, by-the-numbers praise. I have seen "Andrei Rublev" three times (twice
on the big screen), at three very different points in my life. Each
viewing, it has spoken eloquently and directly, has immersed and fascinated
me. And has moved me with superlative skill and force. Other great movies
have entertained me, inspired me, made me think; only "Rublev" has palpably
altered my outlook on life.
Andrei Rublev was a medieval Russian iconographer; the film chronicles his struggle to maintain faith and artistry in a world of immeasurable cruelty and suffering. Rather than give us a crackerjack plot line with all the proper scene climaxes & paradigm shifts, director Tarkovsky presents us with a world in which we must immerse ourselves; once we are inside, we are confronted with rigorous pain and profound triumph. The movie is divided into chapters; the final one, involving an orphaned bell-maker's son, is a stunning film-within-a-film that provides a microcosm of the whole movie. That section, if it stood alone, would be my all-time favourite film.
Be warned: "Andrei Rublev" is SLOW. You have to slide into it; it's not a flick which dazzles, it is a world which beguiles, and which demands to be inhabited. Also, there are EXTREMELY difficult scenes to watch--torture and bloodshed abounds. Watching the Tartar attack on a Russian town is the most painful experience I've ever had--not just in a cinema, but in life.
For those willing to make the gruelling trek, however, "Andrei Rublev" is an inspiring, life-affecting experience. Created under an oppressive Soviet regime (which banned the film for years, recognizing its symbolic commentary on 20th-century Soviet government), the film shows how life can be valuable and even joyful, no matter how much suffering stands in the way.
Especially recommended for Tarkovsky fans, Dostoevsky fans, fans of medieval art, and anyone grappling with questions about suffering and human expression.
He has ruined cinema for me and this is one of the masterpieces that did it.
Everytime you see one of his film's you proclaim: "That's the best picture
ever made!" Which can't be true as that was the last Tarkovsky film you saw.
I've seen this one many times at the cinema and is the best three hours of
celluloid you're likely to see apart from Solaris, which is Tarkovsky
Tarkovsky wanted to make art that would change people's lives and in this he succeeded. Although his life was troubled and his projects clawed into life randomly from the grip of his film studio bosses, when viewed as a whole they seem to be all part of some great plan that was meant to reach fruition right from the start. He believed that ultimately it is best to do things that deepen one's inner life rather than impoverish it. That may explain why you leave most Hollywood films feeling soiled. There are too many great scenes and moments in this astonishing and monumental work to mention so I won't. Suffice it to say it would have been fascinating to have seen what Tarkovsky would have made had he lived and returned from exile to his homeland. Recent events in Russia and the Balkans make this film even more vital and pertinent today.
The trouble is Tarkovsky's films have such extraordinary purity and spiritual depth that no other films seem able to satisfy one in the same way. They seem flat, lifeless and unable to compete. Why watch the let's-pretend-grown ups like Tarantino when you can watch a real grown up? So like I said, Bloody Tarkovsky. He has ruined cinema for me.
As someone who has seen this movie roughly five times and regards it as
the greatest masterpiece in the history of cinema, I find it difficult
to fathom how anyone can think that Andrei Rublev is "slow" or
"boring". It is true that it's slow-paced, and perhaps too demanding in
its unconventional structure of narrative, but I would prefer this to
anything commercial cinema releases in its quest to appeal to as broad
a market a possible. In other words, given the choice between a film
that treats its audience with respect and gives you enough credit to
assume you are willing to sit through roughly three hours of lengthy
dialogue and long takes, not to mention some of the most mesmerisingly
beautiful visuals ever seen on screen; and one which treats its
audience like a demographic that can be appealed to like consumers, not
individuals with their own dreams, fears, hopes and aspirations, I know
which type of cinema truly bores me.
It is often the case that art serves as a mechanism used to comment on social- or individuals ills; rarely however, if at all, does it reflect on itself and its own function to humanity. This is what makes Andrei Rublev a unique and important film, since it addresses the role of the artist in the world. Any questions regarding historical accuracy (or rather lack thereof) towards Rublev's personal life are slightly pointless, since the character is merely used as a vehicle to drive the thematic elements of the narrative. That's not to say that Rublev here is an empty shell, it's simply that Tarkovsky used him as a means to impose his personal views on the subject. Why create art? Does being an artist mean expressing love for humanity? If so, why should one express love for something which seems to hate itself? These are just a few of the questions which arise from viewing this film (and some of which Rublev seems to ask himself, illustrated by at first a naive belief in the good in all humanity, then disillusion, and eventually a rekindling of faith), but it makes the montage of Rublev's work at the end of the film all the more effective, since it creates an understanding of the pain and anguish that lie behind these images.
To regard Andrei Rublev as one movie (assuming that the general definition of a movie is simply a big chunk of storyline) would do some injustice to the brilliantly unorthodox nature of its narrative, in that it's a collection of eight mini-story lines, all of which can be viewed as individual pieces, and three of which could easily pass as masterpieces in their own right. My personal favourite is the third one; Rublev's dialogue with Theophanes The Greek over the self-destructive nature of humanity is, to me at least, one of the most moving moments on film (this is possibly due to Theophanes voicing an opinion I personally arrived at some time before initially watching this film - and one I unfortunately happen to agree with).
Like most of Tarkovsky's movies, Andrei Rublev demands repeated viewings so the film can be absorbed and understood in full. But by doing so you'll begin to realise that this is possibly the most rewarding of all cinematic works, and consequently the most wonderful. The best film ever made? I certainly think so.
Considering the great quantity of films in existence, there are very few that even come close to being considered the greatest of all time. Having seen my share of 'masterpieces' I have come to regard Andrei Rublev as the greatest of them all, although I admit that this is debatable. Nonetheless, this film seems to be stigmatized as being too long or boring - maybe because it's by Tarkovksy, or that it's black and white, or that it's Russian - I really don't know where this comes from. If you can get past any preconceived notions of what the movie is going to be like,and just sit down for a few seconds and watch it, you will probably be able to see from the beginning that this is an extremely important, unmissable film - not to mention captivating and exciting, although very dark and disturbing throughout. The amount of skill and thought, and work that went into this film echoes within the timeless imagery that the director has created. Any serious fan of the cinema would be doing themselves a serious disservice by avoiding this movie any longer. If you interested in the works of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, you'll be able to take something of another level from this film, as there are many subtle references and parallels to their writings and teachings throughout this movie. It could be argued that the film itself is a cinematic representation of the law of three. Regardless, this is a truly extraordinary thing to behold.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is impossible to understand at once. You need to watch it at
least twice to be able to understand something. At first it seems to be
an abstract art-house film about a painter in the 15th century, a film
which talks about one artist's plight towards his own ideals in
difficult times, a philosophical/historical movie. And it may be the
part of the great Tarkovsky's intention.
Yet as you watch it twice you realize that it is also about religion. And about the ideal of man. The first scene clearly shows how man has always strived to reach towards something higher and how he often failed. This film is also about human nature, as always in Tarkovsky's films. We follow Andrei through his dark and troubled times and adventures and of special importance is the Tatar attack part. Here we see Tarkovsky depict the everlasting hunger for power and the effect it can have on a man. The Russian prince betrays his own country and must stand trial to his own conscience after watching the town of Vladimir get destroyed by the horde of wild Tatars. The scene in the church is also of greater significance, as is the river scene with the pagan festival. They all show the conflict of religions and also moral values.
All said, the movie wouldn't be as great without the last part, the one with the boy and the church bell. It illustrates the rebirth of Russia, Christian Russia and the final scene with the hoisting of the bell is one of the best scenes ever in film history. It shows us that faith is a feeble thing;if the bell didn't work, everything would have ended differently. But thanks to a boy's dedication and hard work, the bell tolled and the faith returned to the feeble heads and hearts of people.
The miraculous sudden appearance of color in the very end and the wonderful,solemn music really highlight the ultimate message of this film. Which is-art is sacred and immortal and transcends time.
At the time of its release, I believe only Tarkovsky himself and perhaps Andrey Kontchalovsky, the co-writer, knew just how great a masterpiece this film really is. It has taken the world some time to discover it, but it was worth it. With perfect acting, specially by Anatoli Solonytsin, perfect music, perfect screenplay and perfect direction, what else can I give it but a perfect 10?
One of the finest films ever made. Films like this are what give the medium its purpose. It is rich, beautifully shot and acted, and extraordinarily powerful. Like all great works of art, it requires many viewings and much thought to discover the various layers of intellectual and aesthetic meaning within it. That is why a simple description of the plot would give the prospective viewer little idea of what the movie is actually about. True, it is the tale of Russia's greatest icon painter. But it is also a rumination on art, the artist, relgion, love, culture, conformity, cruelty, and much more. See it and discuss it with some bright friends.
This movie is set in mediaeval Russia, the world of unspeakable cruelty,
poverty and injustice.
And yet, this is a profoundly humanistic, profoundly spiritual, profoundly
individualistic and profoundly uncompromising film.
The photography is absolutely beautiful, mesmerising, original and superb.
But it is the anguished soul and conscience of this film and of its main
hero that truly make this a great picture.
There are no cliches here, no stereotypes and no sucking up to the audience. A brutally honest and yet very moving, touching and optimistic film. And it is not about the nature of a genius. Rather, it is about a man's ability and duty to preserve and be true to his humanity, his freedom, his soul, his heart and his gift, no matter what century it is or what the circumstances are. Watch it to remind yourself of what it really means to be human.
This is the most visually moving film I've seen. Until Rublev, I didn't truly understand how stunning and engaging a film could be. The vignettes of Russian life are very thought-provoking, the cinematography the best I've seen, and the result is a film that moves me every time I watch it. Approach it with an open mind, and be prepared for a slowly unfolding story. Do this, and you'll be deeply rewarded and satisfied in a way that few films will ever match.
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