SteelCity99 - wrote on 04/28/18
Thanks to the power and humanism of a gripping anti-war manifesto called Ivanovo Detstvo (1962) directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, his next epic project Andrey Rublyov had a considerable amount of high expectations from the Russian audience. Naturally, something that continues happening even nowadays, the film surpassed any possible human expectation, being the cinematic result a politically brutal and violent motion picture with a highly sexual tone. The most obvious consequence was the film being prohibited by the Russian government for approximately three years, complicating a wider worldwide distribution while being subject to several edited versions mostly removing every scene involving profanity, its greatly predominant Catholic influence and the noticeably violent torture and battle sequences. Decades had to pass so the actuality audience could witness the full masterpiece of Andrei Tarkovsky completely restored in its 205-minute length. Objectively speaking, most of the films that are considered too violent, too scandalous and utterly disrespectful in their respective eras worry both partially and totally totalitarian governments for the political ideas it presents, including their particular depiction relying on the filmmaking style and auteur vision. The most honest truth is that Andrey Rublyov belongs to a superior category within the art of filmmaking because of its pure sheer brilliance, its dominative skepticism and, ultimately, because of Andrey Tarkovsky, a cinema master.
Andrey Rublyov unfolds its story in the 15th Century, one of the most tragic and catastrophic periods of Russian history where numerous battles against Tatar invasions predominated. The film focuses on the icon painter Andrei Rublev from the very beginnings of his artistic influence in town, traveling and hiding from the Tatars and being asked to paint a fresco of The Last Judgment in the Church of the Annunciation in Moscow while the scaffolding was still being built. Despite that the audience was prevented from seeing the film, which was screened during very early hours of the morning, the film won the FIPRESCI prize in 1969 at the Cannes Film Festival.
Andrey Rublyov is the film that primarily showed the upcoming filming style of Andrei Tarkovsky for the first time. The political content and the strength Catholicism had already acquired were the principal motors that justified and beautifully unfolded the plot of the film which was abundant in substance and in philosophical depth. Both Andrei Tarkovsky and Andrei Konchalovsky developed one of the most complex, provocative and poetic screenplays that could ever give birth to an epic motion picture. The lack of music can be immediately compared with the lack of inspiration that Andrei Rublev transmitted through his paintings, a possible immediate consequence of such turbulent times, resulting in a struggle for maintaining faith in God. When music is employed, its quiet and mystic beauty and tranquility allow both the protagonists to physically take a break from the events they inevitably were meant to go through and allow the spectator to psychologically be hypnotized with the visual style and the gorgeousness of vast landscapes and the love of God.
Evidently, Tarkovsky utilizes lengthy shots that let the time pass like life itself. The editing is effective enough to guarantee a visually pleasant watch, but the cinematography and the length of every single shot acquire an independent timing that allows the film to offer a skeptic perspective. This is the skepticism that Andrei Rublev has gained through his spiritual journey from a religious point of view, but not necessarily questioning the existence of God and a universal truth that governs the world. The frequent questionings arise from unperceived motives that should guide his actions through the right path. Tatar invasions are raping the peacefulness of the Soviet Union while he, ironically, is asked to paint the Last Judgment in the ruins of a church that has not yet been fully built... nor has he. No matter how inexperienced the performances may seem, it even suddenly transmits a rather odd neorealist feeling, and the most believable reactions one is expecting from the characters clearly should lack exaggerated displays of strong emotions and spiritual perdition.
Andrey Rublyov possesses one of the most interesting and haunting scenes ever filmed. An intentionally historically-inaccurate sequence depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is presented while the main character considers the possibility of His death as being divine plan that was meant to reconcile man. His ideas and interpretation of the meaning and influence of Jesus Christ in the existence of the human race are already torn up; therefore, the inaccuracy of the aforementioned scene is justified, since it is a peculiar characteristic that can be immediately contrasted with how life tribulations tend to weaken the faith we should eternally keep towards God. Andrei Rublev is an individual representation of a personal tragedy and of an almost unstoppable loss of religion because of man's constant and never-ending territorial and political wars. This tragedy is implicitly mirrored with the brutality the whole nation was going through. The consequences of irony are a factor that could not be omitted.
Thanks to all of the characteristics mentioned above, a high display of graphic violence and orgiastic rituals were the elements that caused so much controversy back in the 60's. However, a politically correct film must not necessarily be a kind movie towards its audience. It must clearly show to what band the director decided to belong if neutrality is not part of his main ideals. Tarkovsky fulfilled such task and had enough guts to throw in a very powerful religious perspective that would help in every single artistic, cinematographic and plot aspect. The final outcome is one of the most audacious and provocative magnum opuses ever committed to celluloid.
Andrey Rublyov is not only the director's best film, but one of the strongest candidates for the best film ever made, literally speaking. It is a direct message towards the Catholic worldwide population and an undeniable masterpiece towards atheistic and agnostic people. Captivating epiphanies, a riotous conclusion and one of the most visually beautiful and haunting sequences ever filmed in full color are just some of the elements that the movie presents. It is the trademark of a genius, a brave effort at creating a grandiose testament more epic in philosophical depth than in its mere running time and quite possibly the best foreign film ever directed. Words won't suffice for writing a proper review rather than expressing one's amazement, but it is a film almost as big as life itself and a dream come true for anyone who supports expressive art forms and the complexity of existence itself, subjectively speaking. Finally, it is a masterwork that has the divine ability to transform people and to make them see life differently. I do now.