Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Writers: Andrei Konchalovsky, Andrei Tarkovsky
Cinematographer: Vadim Yusov
by Jon Cvack
Andrei Rublev opens on a small village where a young painter, Andrei (Anatoly Solonitsvn), wants to head out into the world and make an impact with his art. In pure Tarkovsky fashion there are iconic images that stick within your head long after.
The Mongols invade a small town, attempting to kill every single person, with the exception of a few women who they rape before they slaughter. In this horrific scene, there’s a real live horse that trips and falls down a set of stairs, clearly breaking one, if not multiple legs. There's something about this moment that pushes the scene into a horror that I only could compare to a later Russian film, Come and See (Elem Klimov; 1985) or Blood of Beasts (Georges Franju; 1939). It was a deliberate choice by Tarkovsky to save this animal from the slaughter house, and not just kill the animal, but make him suffer and force us to watch in a long, wide master. In an age of PETA, it's a moment that we will rarely, if ever witness again in narrative filmmaking. It takes a scene that is already terrifying and adds a level of reality that elevates the material beyond fiction. Tarkovsky, like Andrei, transcends the limits of art, creating a moment that will remain with us forever.
And yet Andrei continues to want to paint. Perpetually in doubt of his skill and unwavering in his commitment. Eventually he comes across a young boy whose father taught him the trade of bell making. In one of the most visually breathtaking scenes I’ve ever come across this young man charges up a community of carpenters and blacksmiths four times his age, confident that he can create the perfect bell. He argues over the type of clay, the amount of silver, the moulds, the timing, and so on and so forth. Like Andrei, he is fighting for his art, and faces execution should the bell fail to ring. Knowing this possible fate, we watch with sweaty palms as they break the bell moulds. It looks great. Will it ring? It does. But the boy doesn’t think it’s good enough. He hates himself. After all the effort. After uprooting the ground, accomplishing an extraordinary feat, he still think it’s inferior to his expectations. He falls upon the ground, miserable.
Andrei Rublev is story of the artist’s pursuit; about the unwavering commitment required to make any great work. Beyond the prestige or recognition is the fight for perfection. It is a struggle with oneself. While all might cheer and celebrate the work, unless the craftsman is content it is all for naught. Andrei understands this point, as does Tarkovsky. And so he heads back into the cold, fighting through the snow, destined to discover his next great painting.
by Jon Cvack
Thoughts on films, old and new
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