Andrei Rublev (1966)

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Andrei Tarkovsky directs Anatoliy Solonitsyn, Ivan Lapivok and Irma Raush in this expansive biography of the fifteenth-century Russian iconographer.

So persevering with Tarkovsky finally has paid off. Andrei Rublev is just as funereal slow and self consciously obtuse as Solaris and Stalker. Yet its series of chaptered vignettes, exposing glimpses of the religious artist’s life, have the sweep of an epic adventure. Otherworldly reveries that prove emotionally affecting, and he somehow manages to keep the ensemble of often mute characters that populate these unique sequences fascinating for the marathon runtime. The low key, wide shot set pieces of a pagan festival, the Tartars joshing a mute girl and the tremendous final act following the making of a gigantic bell all are truly cinematic experiences, haunting and unrepeatable. There’s even a few dollops of visceral action too. The stand-out performance is Ivan Lapivok as Kirill, a less talented monk whose bad fate means Rublev accidentally benefits from his one shot at prestige, while his pride turns him wretched. Their ongoing relationship matches Mozart and Salieri’s in Amadeus. Tarkovsky exposes the harsh brutality of medieval life, clearly expressing the difficulty a pure man would have engaging in his spiritual talent in such a grinding environment. His masterstroke is to keep the paintings, and Technicolor, from us until the very end. Allowing us to see the beauty of the work after we’ve experienced the trials, frailty and doubts of the artist. A warning…. Andrei Rublev does however remain a largely intellectual experience lacking nearly any of the entertainment value of say Con Air. Just felt I needed to say that for context. The only thing that connects the two movies is I own both on DVD.

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