Beautifully directed and filmed, this film follows the life of Andrei Rublev
(Anotoli Solonitsyn), a 15th Century monk. Rublev is the founder of a school of
painting in the Christian Orthodox tradition. His school is dispersed after the rape
and pillage of the village of Vladimir at the hands of those pesky Tatars. It is a
story of artistic rivalry, political intrigue and religious intolerance told with graceful
symmetry and composition.
The historical research that was done for the film is evident in the costumes
and sets, which are uncompromisingly accurate, as far as we can tell. The film has a
grainy quality and a slow pace, elements that enhance the feeling that you are peering
into actual time and place.
Russian with English subtitles, Letterbox, B&W.
Runtime: 185 minutes
"The film work of Tarkovsky is something I have only recently
discovered, and comes as a pleasant surprise.
Restless artists, free thinkers, and noisy nonconformists in the former Soviet Union were
always of great interest to me, creating as they were against a backdrop of rigid
conformist thinking backed up by the real possibility of the labor camp, or a bullet in
the back of the head in the basement of the Lubyanka. In all fields they always shared an
intense honesty, a brave defiance of authority in circulating their work, and an almost
eccentric determination to press ahead in spite of everything.
Tarkovsky's film is surprising because in the enforced atheism of the Soviet Union, the
authorities allowed a film to be made with a religious theme, and obvious dedication of
considerable resourses, not to mention the freedom the director had to put his personal
stamp on the atmosphere and character of the presentation. I have read that Joseph Stalin
drove Sergai Eisenstein to his fatal heart attack with his constant interference, half
baked artistic opinions, and suggestions of displeasure which coming from him meant either
hard labor or a visit to the basement of the Lubyanka.
Tarkovsky underwent a period of exile, a true indication of his importance as an artist,
and a sign that he was too big and well known internationally to be shot.
Personally I love black and white, any film maker who uses it seems very serious in the
telling of his story and doesn't want the audience to be distracted by anything. The black
and white in this film is almost lush, it is grainy giving an appearance of being older,
and shot with more primitive equipment, yet sharply focused, and detail to fill the eye.
All of the actors are good, a couple of them superb. The small bald man whose humor is
bitter and disrespectful who gets his head butted against the tree trunk by the duke's
enforcers, and appears later to accuse Andrei after the duke's men have cut out half his
tongue, and the young man who casts the bell for the duke going for broke from sitting
listlessly in a village killed by plague, to death or riches claiming to know the secrets
of casting, when he is really just making it up as he goes along.
There are lots of movies in the world, most of them meant only for momentary diversion and
the video market. But a very few films, and the people who make them struggle to share
some real insight they feel about living that can be understood even by people of far away
lands and cultures, insights that will make the members of the audience, if only for the
length of the movie, artists too, before we all have to get up at four in the morning in
order to get ourselves together to catch the bus and begin our fourteen hour day."
"Thank you Dan for your interesting and edifying insights into this film
in particular, and into politically inspired film efforts in general. I especially enjoyed
the several detailed scenes you pull out to illustrate a larger ideal, sentiment. I look
forward to viewing this film with your comments in mind!"
"I saw Andrei Rublev last summer because of my interest in Eastern
Orthodox icons and history. I, too, found its slower pace and almost self-contained
stories to be like peering into another time and place.
I don't know what the intentions of the writers and director were but I found in the film
and intensely human story of faith and struggle and the preservation of those values in
the midst of intense sufferring and oppresion. I can see why the film was banned in the
USSR for about two decades!
As Rublev travels throughout Russia he encounters the physical and psychological
sufferring of his people under the Tartar yoke. Towns are pillaged, women and children are
raped and killed, people are forced into slavery...Rublev's own Church serves as an
instrument of intolerance and fear at times. Rublev's own companions despair. Someone
comments (I don't remember if it was Rublev himself when asked why he goes on)
""Sometimes people need to be reminded that they are human beings.""
Rublev encounters and is absorbed into the sufferring of his people. He even kills a
soldier who tries to rape a deaf/mute/mentally impaired girl. As a penance he tries to
withdraw into silence but the encounter with the boy bellcaster draws him out. To the
collective pain of his people he offers an alternative vision--one that is formed by the
very pain he has encountered. In the Trinity icon--so prominent in the closing shots of
the film--Rublev offers the epitome of the Orthodox message: union with the collective
love and grace of the Tri-une God. The Trinity icon is regarded as the supreme expression
of the Divine Unity within Diversity--a circular expression of love among its members. It
is also the aspiration which all Christians were to hope for---union within the diversity
of the other (sobernost is the Russian term) in the love of the Trinity. This hope out of
collective sufferring is what Rublev presents to his people so accustomed to dehumanizing
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