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Andrei Rublev (1966)

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Can anyone please put me straight about this film? I saw it several years ago and was left with the surprising and puzzling feeling that the director was some sort of pagan nature-worshipper.

Nothing of the comparatively little that I've read about Tarkovsky would lead me to believe this,but does anyone please have any comments on-

the film's depiction of the persecuted 'pagan' group(was Tarkovsky as a christian simply sympathetic to them because of their reverence for nature/beauty?)

the very end of the film, when the montage of Rublev's beautiful icons is 'washed away',and,IIRC, there is an image of horses in a field.Should I read that as something more like an assertion that God's creation is much greater than our creations,rather than respond to it as some sort of declaration of the supremacy of nature?

Thanks,David


"The core purpose of art is a survival mechanism, and the way it helps us survive is by making us attentive." Milton Glaser

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the film's depiction of the persecuted 'pagan' group(was Tarkovsky as a christian simply sympathetic to them because of their reverence for nature/beauty?)

When I saw this scene, I didn't get the sense that their behavior was being glorified or praised in any way, be it through Andrei's horrified/fascinated reaction to their behavior, their lascivious actions, etc. But then again, neither was the behavior of their persecutors. If anything, I got the impression that Tarkovsky was trying to imply the misguided-ness of their behavior, for lack of a better term.


"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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Those are great observations, David. One of the best little insights I ever got into Tarkovsky's films was a comment Chris Marker makes in his essay film, One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevitch. He notes that Tarkovsky almost always shoots his heroes from above with the camera lense pointed down slightly. Doing so raises the horizon line, blending his characters into the landscape around them. Compare that to, say, John Ford's low-angle shots of John Wayne, which make him larger than life against a blue-sky backdrop. Ford makes heroes; Tarkovsky makes servants.

You're correct in noting Tarkovsky's respect for nature. He justified it by saying that modern, technological man had lost touch with the world around him and, therefore, with God. Horses, in particular, were for Tarkovsky a kind of ideal instance of God's creative act. From Sculpting in Time:

"art must carry man's craving for the ideal, must be an expression of his reaching out towards it; that art must give man hope and faith. And the more hopeless the world in the artist's version, the more clearly perhaps must we see the ideal that stands in opposition to it -- otherwise life becomes impossible!"

To read those closing scenes on Tarkovsky's terms (which, of course, we're in no way entitled to do) would mean experiencing the spontaneous, simultaneous, and even contradictory emotions produced by the sight of Rublev's icon and the horse, rather than reading them as symbols. Tarkovsky hated symbolism. Another good quote:

"in film, every time, the first essential in aby plastic composition, its necessary and final criterion, is whether it is true to life, specific and factual; that is what makes it unique. By contrast, symbols are born, and readily pass into general use to become clich

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Many thanks,both of you.I must have seen the film about eight years ago,and not discussed it with anyone!

Opus,you're absolutely right about the amoral/immoral behaviour of the pagans in the film.At the same time,though,I think that I must have been drawn to some magical quality about them.

Darren,thank you for your comments.It's especially liberating to learn that Tarkovsky hated symbolism!


"The core purpose of art is a survival mechanism, and the way it helps us survive is by making us attentive." Milton Glaser

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Opus,you're absolutely right about the amoral/immoral behaviour of the pagans in the film.At the same time,though,I think that I must have been drawn to some magical quality about them.

I think that could be partially due to the way that scene is shot. It's very surreal and dreamlike, which could certainly imbue their activities with a certain "magical quality".


"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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Yes you're right,opus.

(And perhaps my attraction to them says a lot about me;I was living like a sort of exile in the city at the time,and desparate for a connection with nature.)

Edited by David

"The core purpose of art is a survival mechanism, and the way it helps us survive is by making us attentive." Milton Glaser

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That is an interesting scene, isn't it? It's been a while since I last watched Rublev, but I can still clearly "hear" the silence of those shots. It's one of the few scenes from any film I can think of that feels like it was really shot outside at night. It's dark and quiet, and there's the potential at every moment for something strange to happen. I'm finding it very difficult to explain what I mean by that, but it's the same feeling that strikes me when I'm camping. In most films, the score, lighting, and action make the night barely distinguishable from the day. That's not the case here, though, and I wonder if that is the quality that lends the scene its "magic."

Actually, Ivan's Childhood has a couple scenes that have a similar feel.

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Not sure if this merits an "Ahem", since the original thread on this film was such a bizarre mix of Andrei Rublev and Spy Kids 3D, but anyhoo...


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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    Opus,you're absolutely right about the amoral/immoral behaviour of the pagans in the film.At the same time,though,I think that I must have been drawn to some magical quality about them.

It's been a few years for me too, but I have to agree that the way in which Tarkovsky shot the pagans seemed sympathetic to me. Rublev sort of has this voyeristic moment and (as is Tarkovsky's MO) you really have no way of knowing what the protagonist is thinking. I thought maybe Rublev was tempted/aroused by the pagan girls, but it was never really clear.


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God is a dialog. It is a dialog between what it has been and what it is.

One god thing FOR EVERYBODY is a hoax. Padres domines et spiritus sancti FOR EVERYBODY is a hoax.

Different territories - different winds, different waters, different trees, different people.

Horses in Tarkovskij's dreams are similar to the horses in my stables. They are not like horses in America. They share different history - these people and these horses.

What you call pagan I call people. I was able to establish a dialog with what i saw. That is my history. And being of other territories (I presume by the writings of all of you) i dont expect you to understand.

With all the big talk about the minor things in this movie, I have to ask you. Why are you as yourselves watching films? And especially after answering the first question, why watch Tarkovskij, especialy Rubljev, twice?

I feel anger, and I am sorry for that. But muderes, rapists. Liars. Thats what church stands for in my territories. Not the knowledge and peace and prosperity.

But The ways of peacfoul co-existing with other beings and once were beings and once will be beings are not forgotten on my territories. Anger is just the beginning - and i am not afraid.

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On Wednesday I'm going to watch ANDREI ROUBLEV with a couple of the film's biggest fans and another friend who's never seen it before. First half in the morning, then order in Thai food and talk over what we've seen to that point, then the second half in the afternoon, then more talk.

Can't wait! And if that prompts anybody to give the film a look so we can chat here as well...

One starter-offer question: what's with the balloon sequence at the beginning?


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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what's with the balloon sequence at the beginning?

Short answer: The risks inherent in any attempt to discover a new perspective. It's a parable. Similar to the short scene that opens Mirror.

Aha! Helpful.

(The VHS version I rented from the library left much of that scene unsubtitled, leaving me panicked that there was some crucial signficance I had missed.)

Edited by GreetingsEarthling

That's just how eye roll.

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More to follow, just got back from our RUBLEVothon, but it's very late so I won't write a lot now. Viewing and talking about the film with a pair of other artists (one a writer, the other a pianist and conductor) we very much saw that opening sequence as something of a paradigm scene for what seems to be the prevailing thrust of the story, which has to do with the risk and exhilaration of artistic exploration / expression. Every section of the first half of the film has to do with a character who makes art / expressed themselves / entertains and pays a significant price for that. Culminating in the bell making portion of the second half.

So yes, what Darren said about the risk in discovering a new perspective. But more specifically tied to the calling of the artist, at least as we received the film. Interesting the way both exhilaration and sacrifice are assocaiated with the word "passion," noting that Tarkovsky's title for the film was "The Passion According To Andrei" - I very much see Tarkovsky drawing out the resonances between his calling, Roublev's, and Christ's - all reflected and refracted in various other character throughlines.


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Back in the spring I met with a Regent College professor who was revamping a first year cross-discipline course that blends theology, history and "the Christian life" - indeed, I remember asking folks here for film recommendations for various weeks.

Anyhow, one of my reccs that they used was ANDREI RUBLEV, and they invited me to intro the film and conduct a conversation following. That was tonight. My third complete viewing, with lots of cherry-picking along the way since receiving my Criterion disk back in June or so, butressed by a bunch of reading to prep for tonight, and the film is becoming a lifetime companion.

One very perceptive guy in the audience grew up with a Russian father, has a more than passing knowledge of Russian orthodoxy and icons and such. Can you imagine what an experience it was for him, seeing RUBLEV for the first time! And he has a real artistic sensibility, drew out a number of really valuable insights and observations.

One thing that struck me forcibly this time through was the affinity to Breughel. I'd noticed it before in the Russian passion that Andrei envisions when talking with Theophanes: when the peasants parade past, following Christ carrying the cross, with the hillside fields foreshortened in the background, it struck me as being very Breughel. Watching tonight, I was even more struck by a moment at the end of the long section where Kirill meets Theophanes: finally the conversation ends and we see the man being tortured on the wheel, then the camera cuts away to a long shot of various people going about their business in a nearby field, maybe at the bottom of a hill? In the centre of the shot, an old nag, oblivious. Reminded me so of W.H. Auden's poem, which could be a gloss on so much of the film;

MUSEE DES BEAUX ARTS

About suffering they were never wrong,

The Old Masters; how well they understood

Its human position; how it takes place

While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walk-

ing dully along;

How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting

For the miraculous birth, there always must be

Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating

On a pond at the edge of the wood:

They never forgot

That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course

Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot

Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse

Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Brueghel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away

Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may

Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,

But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone

As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green

Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen

Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,

Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

by W.H. Auden

"The Fall Of Icarus" is a painting by Pieter Brueghel)


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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(Ken;I'm sorry to have missed your response to me from August-very many thanks.)


"The core purpose of art is a survival mechanism, and the way it helps us survive is by making us attentive." Milton Glaser

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The Ruscico (original theatrical release) is shorter mostly because some of the violence was removed after the premiere, but there are lots of little changes here and there; Tarkovsky publicly claimed to actually prefer the shorter version, but there has been a lot of speculation that he liked it better simply because it was the only version available at the time.

The uncut version was hidden under the film editor's bed in Moscow for 15 years until Martin Scorsese discovered it and licenced it to Criterion and everyone else.

If you'd like the nitty gritty, you can download a PDF from a discussion board I frequented about five years ago, here.

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Ron, thanks for the beautiful Auden poem--its affinity is uncanny. Tarkovsky had a deep admiration for Breughel--I can't remember if you've seen Solaris, but Breughel's series of paintings depicting the seasons is one of the remninders of Earth Tarkovsky puts on the space station, and his camera lovingly dotes over "Hunters in the Snow", which could almost be a still from any one of his films.

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Tarkovsky had a deep admiration for Breughel--I can't remember if you've seen Solaris, but Breughel's series of paintings depicting the seasons is one of the remninders of Earth Tarkovsky puts on the space station, and his camera lovingly dotes over "Hunters in the Snow", which could almost be a still from any one of his films.

How exciting! I'm having a friend over tomorrow night to watch it for the first time!

By the way, here's something I wrote to some buddies in Calgary with whom I viewed the film this summer. They're two of my most trusted film recommenders, also very close personal friends. Both count ANDREI their number one favourite film of all time: and one of them, like me, compiles lists obsessively, so that's a thoroughly-thought-through opinion! (The two had never met until Peter moved to Calgary this summer and I was able to introduce him to Mel over ANDREI and Thai food - now there's a memorable experience.

Anyhow, even on that second close viewing and subsequent conversation, I was intrigued by the film but not entirely a convert. But now that's changed. Here's what I emailed them;

*

ANDREI has now moved in among my Favourite Films Of All Time, and I suspect it will keep climbing as I revisit it and write it up for my book this coming week, along with some other Tarkos.

I recommended that the film be shown at Regent College this fall, as part of a sort of inter-disciplinary course they provide for masters students involving history, theology and "Christian life," which includes a fair helping of art and culture stuff. They invited me to intro the film and do a discussion following, which was last Thursday, and my third complete time through, combined with the reading and thinking I did about it to prep, has really cemented my connection with this Everest of a film.

Partly because getting a grasp on this immense and elusive and inspired film is such a challenge, and it's starting to come into focus for me, and that's exhilarating. (We experience the film rather the way we look at the icons at the end of the film, in disconnected details, never able to step back and look at the whole, but slowly apprehending them by an accumulation of detail, and intuition, contemplation.)

And partly because the film seems to have spoken to something going on in me lately. I'm not much of a guilt guy, but through the summer and into the fall I became more and more troubled about Africa, about torture, slavery, child prostitution, poverty, about suffering people here in Vancouver. And about the way that the life Jesus modeled seems to bear so little resemblance to the life I live. I know, I'm a nice guy and all that, but really: I'm so uncomfortable with the discipleship Jesus describes, I can barely stand to read the gospels, my life is so compromised and comfy. I've been plagued with the question, how can I go on indulging myself writing a book about movies and acting in little plays when people are hungry, enslaved, alone.

So. You can see why Andrei's story suddenly connected with me. Watching the film, I'm going, "Paint, for God's sake, paint! Yes things are terrible: that's why you need to paint!! Watch that bell-maker over there. See? Now go do that..."

And the guy in the seat in front of me turns around, and I'm thinking, "Jeez, I didn't say that out loud, did I? He's going to tell me to shut up." And I'm already formulating a mumbled apology when I see the guy is Jesus, and he turns around and says, "Now go and do likewise."

Nuff said.


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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I'm having a friend over tomorrow night to watch it for the first time!

Lucky you...

"The film is about Rublev...but for us its true spiritual hero is Boriska. The film aims to show an infectious, frenzied energy emerging from such a troubled epoch: it awakens in Boriska and bursts into flame with the bell." --Tarkovsky

Edited by Doug C

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The Ruscico (original theatrical release) is shorter mostly because some of the violence was removed after the premiere.

what?the falling down horse from the stair on Ruscico version isn't enough???

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