Andrei Rublev (The Criterion Collection)
The Criterion Collection
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The 15th-century Russian icon painter renounces his art after taking part in a peasant uprising. Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.
At last, the complete version of Andrei Tarkovski's 1966 masterpiece about the great 15th century Russian icon painter (a film suppressed by the Soviet Union and unseen until 1971) is available. It's a complex and demanding narrative about the responsibility of the artist to participate in history rather than documenting it from a safe distance. A landmark in Russian cinema, Andrei Rublev is a beautifully lyrical black-and-white film about harmony and soulful expression. As the late filmmaker says in a supplementary interview, each generation must experience life for itself; it cannot simply absorb what has preceded it. In fact, a whole host of supplements accompanies the film in this Criterion Collection release. Stick with it; it's worth the effort. --Bill Desowitz
- The definitive 205-minute director's cut with exclusive widescreen digital transfer
- Completely retranslated subtitles that restore 40% of the dialogue
- Rare film interviews with Tarkovsky, with a general essay on Tarkovsky's work by Professor Petric
- Audio essays by Harvard film professor Vlada Petric over select scenes
- A timeline featuring key events in Russian history, plus the lives and works of Andrei Rublev and Andrei Tarkovsky
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Top Customer Reviews
There is an action filled battle scene, lots of conflict and beautiful dreamlike moments in the film. There are also a number of philosophical arguments – about time, integrity, art , the importance of faith—in each other and ourselves—and the artists place in the world. These discussions reflect the contemplative nature of Rublev and his teachers (not to mention Tarkovsky himself). These need a bit of patience, as most filmgoers have never experienced these type of scenes in contemporary films.
Tarkovsky, when asked, denied he was interested in any kind of symbolism in his films. He thought symbols delivered messages, and he felt the films he made spoke directly to his audience without the help of symbols. However, in contrast to what he says, it is impossible not to interpret many of the images he uses as symbols. He just didn’t want to have to answer any questions about them, and preferred to call them imagery.
Andrei Rublev has a rather unusual form. Its episodes are divided into sections—each with a title. This gives the film a more formal feel, and can help you organize your memories of the film. This episodic format is similar to that of La Dolce Vita, a film Tarkovsky admired. The imagery and ideas are dense and it can be disorienting for viewers unaccustomed to reading imagery, or visual motifs.
It might be a help to review these sections before you see the film.
1. PROLOGUE: FLYING serves as an overture to the work, a visual portrait of an artistic experience—its passion and its danger. A group of men prepare a hot-air balloon to fly—they defy superstition, and are obviously visionaries. The townsfolk view the balloon as witchcraft and a struggle ensues. As the balloon ascends, it captures the overview, expanse and breath of great art but also illustrates the sacrifice that might be required for it. The world of earth, air, fire and water is breathtakingly evoked. It ends with the enigmatic image of a horse.
2. THE JESTER – Summer 1400: We meet a traveling mime—the portrait of the artist as entertainer (and a heretic because he is pagan). Through him we and are introduced to the medieval world: the world of peasants, the monastery, Christianity vs. paganism.
3. THEOPHANES the GREEK – 1405-1406: Rublev bids goodbye to his mentor and strikes out on his own. He chooses his assistants (this is what all artists must do to develop their own style).
4. THE PAGEANT: a vision of Christ. Rublev observes scenes that will inspire his painting—a village pageant of the crucifixion.
5. THE HOLIDAY – 1408 MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT - St. JOHN’S EVE: The artist’s introduction to the sensual world. Midsummer’s night was pagan ritual where the young joyfully gave up their virginity. They are hunted down by Christian soldiers of the church in the morning after.
6. THE LAST JUDGMENT – 1408: Rublev’s first big job—he revolts against authority and learns about treachery and betrayal.
7. THE RAID – 1408: The horror of the world descends upon Rublev. A jealous prince attacks his own brother’s town and destroys it. Rublev, in defense, kills a man.
8. THE CHARITY – Winter 1412: He vows silence and renounces art. A half-wit girl he saved is taken off by the Tartars. He meets a fellow artist, but has lost faith in himself.
9. THE BELL – 1423-1424: After a long period of wandering, Rublev observes a budding artist come into his own through enormous faith in himself, courage, chance-taking, hard work and a great deal of luck. (many of the virtues needed for ambitious artistic undertakings) The young man takes on the job of creating a bell for a cathedral. Through this remarkable sequence, one of the most beautiful in film, Rublev regains his faith in himself, and begins to produce his finest work.
10. CODA – The black and white film now fades into color, and we finally see Rublev’s actual work. All the scenes in the film are represented here, and it becomes apparent that Tarkovsky has created his film from the images Rublev painted.
This film is a cornerstone of the finest achievements in film.
The plot does not follow a standard Hollywood structure that would move the story arc seamlessly from beginning to climax to anticlimax (with everything explicitly explained along the way). The film is divided into seven chapters, with each chapter involving some activity that illustrates a Universal Human Theme. Well, I think the themes are "universal"; I have been told (quite forcefully) that they are specifically Russian!
I have been told, "You have to be RUSSIAN to understand this film!" Okay, perhaps this is true. Even so, I loved it. It is visually fascinating and intellectually and emotionally powerful. The many characters are realistically diverse and complicated. The depiction of life in 15th Century Russia seems to be historically authentic.
There is quite a lot of explicit violence in this film, including human torture & mutilation and animal cruelty & killing. While the violence against humans is (obviously) faked, the killing of at least one horse is not fake (i.e., they really killed the beast). There is also nudity in this film. The film is shot in black & white (except for the very end). The English subtitles are very good.
As you may already know, the Criterion edition is taken from Martin Scorsese's personal print and represents the penultimate version of the film, while the Ruscico edition represents the release version, which is about twenty minutes shorter. However, Tarkovsky did more than pare twenty minutes off the film -- it's actually a somewhat different film, though the differences are not major.
To begin with, the Scorsese print (Criterion) has a completely different set of credit titles and intertitles, and at that stage the film was titled "Strasty po Andreyu" (Passion of Andrei). The release version (Ruscico) is titled "Andrei Rublev" and is not merely shorter: it contains shots that do not appear in "Strasty po Andreyu" (Criterion). Commenting on the DVDs themselves, the Ruscico DVD is much better looking. The subtitles (as one might imagine) are written by someone whose native language is Russian, and that is very important to me. When the subtitles are written by an English-speaker they are rendered in English idioms and subtle, specific meanings are often lost. Sometimes one cannot even tell what a scene is about. (There is a scene in Criterion's "Ivanovo Detstvo", for example, where the English-written subs completely obscure the point of a scene, while the Russian-written English subs in Ruscico's version make it perfectly clear.) Russian-written English subtitles are sometimes ungrammatical, use idioms whose meanings are unclear to non-Russian speakers, and sometimes even inadvertantly use a word from yet another language (French, in one case that I saw), but I'll take subs written by someone whose native language is that of the film any day. In fact, if you see a version of any foreign film with English-written subs first, then see a version where the English subs were written in the film's country of origin, it will be like seeing a whole new film. (A spectacular example is the difference between Kino's "Zerkalo" [Mirror] and Ruscico's -- there is NO comparison [Ruscico wins!], except that you have to avoid Ruscico's 5.1 audio remix and select the original mono.)
Additionally, an extra of great interest is hidden away on Ruscico's "Andrei Rublev" DVD. In the individual filmographies certain titles are highlighted: these are accompanied by trailers, three of which are for Tarkovsky films. These trailers are made up largely of shots that are entirely different from anything that appeared in the final film, so should be of absorbing interest to any fan of his work.
To sum up: Although I prefer the long version represented on Criterion's disk ("Strasty po Andreyu"), the Ruscico disk has a superior image, better subtitles (to my way of thinking), and fascinating extras if you can find them. Get both DVDs.
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