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Tracing the life of a renowned icon painter, the second feature by Andrei Tarkovsky vividly conjures the murky world of medieval Russia. This dreamlike and remarkably tactile film follows Andrei Rublev as he passes through a series of poetically linked scenes—snow falls inside an unfinished church, naked pagans stream through a thicket during a torchlit ritual, a boy oversees the clearing away of muddy earth for the forging of a gigantic bell—gradually emerging as a man struggling mightily to preserve his creative and religious integrity. Appearing here in the director’s preferred 185-minute cut as well as the version that was originally suppressed by Soviet authorities, the masterwork Andrei Rublev is one of Tarkovsky’s most revered films, an arresting meditation on art, faith, and endurance. SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES • New 2K digital restoration of the director’s preferred 185-minute cut, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack • New 2K digital transfer of the original 205-minute version of the film, The Passion According to Andrei • Steamroller and Violin, Tarkovsky’s 1961 student thesis film • The Three Andreis, a 1966 documentary about the writing of the film’s script • On the Set of “Andrei Rublev,” a 1966 documentary about the making of the film • New interviews with actor Nikolai Burlyaev and cinematographer Vadim Yusov by filmmakers Seán Martin and Louise Milne • New interview with film scholar Robert Bird • Selected-scene commentary from 1998 featuring film scholar Vlada Petric • New video essay by filmmaker Daniel Raim • New English subtitle translation • PLUS: An essay by critic J. Hoberman
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Consider this: it's a film called ANDREI RUBLEV that has little to do with the historical figure of Andrei Rublev. There are many scenes in which he is completely—or almost completely—absent. That really doesn't matter. It's a movie that paints a portrait of the Middle Ages in Russia. It includes the foolhardy endeavors of man to fly, the diabolic attempts of woman to embrace the numinous, and the ambition of a young man to cast a bell. Somewhere in the mix is the story of a monk who merely wants to change the color palette of Orthodox iconography. That monk is Rublev.
The ending is glorious, if you are lucky enough to see it on a big screen. Otherwise, it will make you bow in shame at the inadequacy of your home theatre, no matter how much you have splurged on it.
Still and all, don't think of missing this. Even if you have a DVD of this movie, go immediately and throw it away. Buy the Blu-Ray. (Plays beautifully in Region 1; forget the Cyrillic lettering on the box.) This is the most crucial Tarkovsky to see in high definition, but you still owe it to yourself to acquire any other of his films available in hi-def.
I will note that the 205 minute version is not fully restored, and it contains a lot of scratches and aging. However, it is better than what we've had before, and I personally do not mind aging defects as long as the picture still looks filmic and detailed. In this case, the 205 is beautiful even with the crackling of an aged negative. If this version were the only one available, I would be satisfied.
However, the 183 minute version, preferred by Tarkovsky, is the one they restored immaculately, and it is just stunning. A few soft shots here and there, but nothing jarring the spell of the beautiful presentation. Access this transfer's trailer on YouTube or here at Amazon under its product description if you want to get the idea.
Andrei Rublev is loosely based on the life of the 15th century Russian icon painter of the same name. The film is shot in black and white, but definitely has most of the characteristics of Tarkovsky's later films: Long edits, not much cutting, beautiful cinematography and challenging dialogue. I don't want to give away too much of the film's premise, but it is large in scope and quite striking. Even more amazing is that this film was done on what would be considered a shoe string budget in the West.
I would recommend this film to those of the Christian faith, but everyone else should watch it as well. The movie requires patience as it is three hours and twenty five minutes. Please be warned, there are a few disturbing sequences of battle, possible rape and other brutality, but these take up only a small part of the film.
I truly believe that Tarkovsky is the most unique film maker of all time. He spoke in a language that can only be watched to appreciate. It would be difficult for me to explain what this film language is in this review, but trust me, it is something you are not used to.
As for other Tarkovsky films, I would again recommend Ivan's Childhood, Solaris, The Sacrifice, and, my personal favorite Stalker. Stalker is the penultimate expression of the director's style and amazing to look at 40 years later.