Monday, February 4, 2013

#903. Andrei Rublev (1966) - The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky

Directed By: Andrei Tarkovsky

Starring: Anatoliy Solonitsyn, Ivan Lapikov, Nikolay Grinko

Trivia: For the scene where the cow is on fire, it was covered in asbestos, which protected it from actually being burned

The first version of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1966 black and white film Andrei Rublev that I ever owned was a low-grade video copy, cropped to full-screen (to “fit my television”), with very poor picture quality and a number of scenes missing.

Yet even in this truncated, sub-par state, the images leapt off the screen. Featuring unforgettable sequences that perfectly complement the film’s sometimes-tragic human drama, Andrei Rublev is a masterpiece in any form.

Based on a real-life historical figure, Andrei Rublev tells the mostly fictitious story - broken into several segments - of a 15th century monk named Andrei Rublev (Anatoliy Solonitsyn), who leaves his monastery so he can study with the famous painter, Theophanes the Greek (Nikolai Sergeyev).mThe movie follows Rublev on his travels, during which he witnesses such disturbing events as a pagan ritual and raids carried out by the invading Tartars. Coming face-to-face with violence and treachery for the first time in his life, Rublev’s faith begins to waver.

There are images in Andrei Rublev you will never forget, including some you’ll wish you could. As was the case with many films from this period, animals don’t fare very well in Andrei Rublev; in one scene, a cow is engulfed in flames, and in another a horse falls down a flight of stairs (rumor has it this horse was obtained from a local slaughter house, and, just before its fall, was shot through the head).

Yet along with the violence and despair, the film features moments of true inspiration. In my favorite sequence, a young boy named Boriska (Nikolai Burlyayev), the son of a deceased bell maker, is commissioned by the Grand Prince (Yuri Navarov) to build a large bell. Boriska was chosen for this important task because he claimed to possess all of his father’s secrets, which he says were passed on to him. Barking out orders to men much older than himself, Boriska constructs a perfect bell.

Shortly after it is completed, however, Boriska breaks down, sobbing as he falls into Rublev’s arms. He says that he lied, confessing his father told him no secrets whatsoever, meaning it was his confidence, and nothing more, that got the job done. This boy’s belief in his own abilities served as a life lesson for Rublev, who at the time was mired in self-doubt, his faith in God hanging by a thread. Spurred on by Boriska’s courage, Rublev is inspired to take up his paintbrush, and in the ensuing years would create a number of masterworks.

Both an intimate portrait of an artist struggling with his inner conflicts and a vivid, often brutal account of the times in which he lived, Andrei Rublev brings us into its world of chaos and violence, then reveals that, even in conditions such as these, there is beauty to be found. A powerful motion picture, Andrei Rublev will leave you speechless.

1 comment:

Sir Phobos said...

Well, I've had the DVD for several years now but never watched it. I think it's because every time I think about it, I realize it's like 4 hours long. I really should set some time aside for it. I really like the little I've seen from Tarkovsky.