Andrei Rublev is a 1966 Russian motion-picture directed by Russian auteur Andrei Tarkovsky. The movie presents a semibiographical account of Andrei Rublev who is considered to be the greatest medieval Russian painter of Orthodox icons and frescoes. Andrei Rublev is set against the sumptuous, albeit grotesque backdrop of the 15th century Russia. Like an epic Russian novel, Andrei Rublev—also known as The Passion According to Andrei—not only beautifully depicts the caricatures of its wide array of characters but also poignantly portraits the medieval Russia. In other words, Tarkovsky not manages to capture the soul of a passionate artist who, lost in the mediocrity of his time, is forced to question the veracity of his own genius, but also succeeds in presenting a Kaleidoscopic Snapshot of a highly tumultuous phase of Russian History
Andrei Rublev is beautifully presented in form of seven chapters and a prologue and an epilogue with each chapter allegorically depicting a different theme. Through Andrei Rublev, Tarkovsky demonstrates that spirituality lies at the very core of creative freedom and it is this connects with the divine (whether alleged or ultimate) that gives the artist his inspiration. Andrei Rublev also talks about the self-inflicted mediocrity of existence that slowly but steadily leads to poverty of thought, subsequently leading to a state of mental stagnation. Tarkovsky brutally touches upon the duality of art: as a healer as well as a punisher: For those who are true to themselves, art can serve be a great healer while for those who doubt their own abilities, art can be a merciless punisher. In Andrei Rublev, Tarkovsky also expatiates upon the hypocrisies associated with human existence. Tarkovsky professes subjugation to the omnipotence of art, although not as a symbol of accepting its authority but rather as a gesture of acknowledging its greatness. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to imagine that through the medium of Andrei Rublev, Tarkovsky tries to alleviate his own artistic suffering that owing to the perpetual ignorance, indifference and brutality of the ruck has become a quotidian reality for an artist.
Andrei Rublev also serves to be a repository of some of the greatest film sequences ever filmed in the history of cinema. This includes a bizarre prologue depicting a man taking a hot air balloon ride to escape an ignorant mob, an infamous orgy scene that’s depicted as part of some pagan ritual, a Jester getting arrested for mocking the Boyars, Kirill’s rendezvous with Theophanes the Greek, and the casting of a bell for the Grand Prince by the opportunist son of a dead bellmaker. The movie’s final sequence depicts some real works of Andrei Rublev in form of a montage as the viewer finally gets to witness (in the literal sense) the artistic genius of a truly great artist. The above mentioned scenes and a dozen or so more are highly symbolic in nature owing to which they can be interpreted in more than just one way and perhaps that’s what makes multiple viewings absolutely essential. Owing to its controversial nature, the movie couldn’t be released domestically in the early going and it was only in 1971 that a heavily edited version was released in Soviet Union. Andrei Rublev’s grotesque imagery coupled with its picturesque cinematography—high on detail with dream-like long takes—gives it a poetic feel. Andrei Rublev is an unforgettable cinematic experience that gets better with each viewing and is a living testament to the timelessness of cinema. One more aspect of Andrei Rulev that’s worth mentioning is that despite it’s rebellious subject and contradicting themes, the movie has an undercurrent of subtlety that balances it and prevents it from going overboard—something that Tarkovsky always took care of ever so meticulously.
Overall, Andrei Rublev makes cinema touch new heights and depths and yet we barely get to witness Tarkovsky’s signature mysticism and phantasm—the motifs predominant in his later works; Andrei Rublev is a great means to get acquainted with Tarkovsky’s style of moviemaking before delving into his more personal works like Solyaris (1972), Stalker (1979), Nostalghia (1983), and The Sacrifice (1986). Andrei Rublev brings to the fore the artistic yearnings of a quintessential artist and represents a kind of cathartic cinema that owing to its profundity can be tough to imbibe in the early going but has huge rewards for those who are patient and are willing to delve deep enough to savor its true delight. Highly recommended!
- Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
- Produced by Tamara Ogorodnikova
- Written by Andrei Konchalovsky & Andrei Tarkovsky
- Casting: Anatoly Solonitsyn, Ivan Lapikov, Nikolai Grinko, Nikolai Sergeyev, Nikolai Burlyayev & Irma Raush
- Music by Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov
- Cinematography: Vadim Yusov
- Studio: Mosfilm
- Running time: 205 min. (original version)
- Country : Soviet Union
- Language: Russian