ANDREI RUBLEV(directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966) (***** out of 5) * * *
> This banned Soviet film from strikingly original filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky is a strange animal. All his films are. A true pioneering original, there is only one director I could compare him to. After seeing SOLARIS, IVAN’S CHILDHOOD, STALKER and now ANDREI RUBLEV, it is apparent that Terrence Malick stood on the shoulders of this giant to make his unique cinematic tone poems. Both make languid, fluid films that move at a steady, measured pace some may find boring. Both produce startling, evocative images, beautifully lit and perfectly shot. Both make deeply humanist films that celebrate nature.
. I loved some of this film, was totally indifferent to other parts, but taken as a whole, I would have to call this a classic of the cinema. Not being well-informed about Russian history, I can’t shed any light on why this film made Soviet authorities so livid. I’ll leave that to the scholars.
. This gloriously black-and-white biography of the celebrated Russian iconic painter transports us back in time to the 15th century- a turbulent time in Russian history marked by violent power struggles between rival princes and invading Tartars. It is a brutal era, populated by powerless peasants devoured by the inexorable sweep of history, the all-powerful church and the wielders of worldly power. There is a wonderful sequence near the end about a young apprentice and his crew forging a bell for the local Prince. They know that if they fail, they die- and the poor apprentice is bluffing: his father never told him the secret of how to make bells, before dying from the plague with the rest of his village.
. The battle scenes are indelible, the backgrounds sometimes contain hundreds of actors in motion, having been filmed well before the advent of computer-generated effects. The camera lingers over aesthetic scenes of death: coagulated rivulets of blood in the snow, a victim of war falls into the river, his blood mixing in lazy clouds in the water. Be warned, this film includes shots of unsettling violence toward animals. (Why can we watch reenactments of humans being butchered passively, yet feel so outraged by depictions of cruelty to animals? Aren’t humans animals? The difference here- we know the human violence is playacting. The violence against animals appears real and actual. We watch a horse fall to his death from a wooden scaffolding, and watch as cow runs past, his hide on fire. These were not special effects, as they would be now. Standards change through the decades, no doubt, but these incidents remain very difficult for modern audiences to watch.)
– ANDREI RUBLEV is a long and occasionally listless film, but I do suggest it for any serious lover of world cinema. It deserves its spot in classic world cinema.
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