Andrei Rublev (1966)

andrei rublev poster 1966 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great looking, epic, layered

Challenging movie where story feels secondary

Movie Info

Movie Name: Andrei Rublev

Studio: Mosfilm

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s):  December 16, 1966 (Soviet Union)/October 1973 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

andrei rublev anatoly solonitsyn snow

Well this isn’t a very good roof

Life in Russia in 15th century medieval Russia was not always easy.  Andrei Rublev (Anatoly Solonitsyn) finds himself gifted with the ability to paint and is devoted to his art.  As he travels and meets people, he finds himself challenged by the changing perceptions and various different believes of the people that inhabit the land.  When Rublev’s faith is challenged by an attack and slaughter by Tartars at a church he has painted, he questions if he can paint again…and by not painting is he defying God’s gift?

Written and directed by Andrei Tarkovsky (with additional writing by Andrei Konchalovsky), Andrei Rublev (Андрей Рублёв) is a Soviet era Russian film about the icon painter Andrei Rublev who lived somewhere between 1360AD to 1430AD.  Following Tarkovsky’s Ivan’s Childhood from 1962, the movie premiered in the Soviet Union in 1966 but later received wider acclaim but also multiple edits of the original film.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #34).

andrei rublev passion play scene

Religion can save you in Medieval Russia…but you probably can be killed for it just as easily

Tarkovsky is tough, and simply due to the subject matter, Andrei Rublev was particularly tough to follow.  With little background in Russian history (or Medieval art for that matter), the film is full of events and interactions that are hard to gather without direction and guidance.  While movies like Solaris and Stalker you could drift away in and it didn’t matter as much what was occurring, Andrei Rublev probably should be watched with a guide.

Like Tarkovsky’s other films, the movie is quite long.  The first release cut was 205 minutes while Tarkovsky’s final cut was 183 minutes.  While most movies you should sit and watch, the movie is worth taking breaks from because it is rather heavy.  It is divided into chapters and things like the opening sequence have nothing to do with Rublev, but the idea of experimentation and how it is treated at the time.  Rublev’s story is a very, very loose telling of what is known about Rublev and the film’s primarily goal is a depiction of Medieval Russia.  Scenes like the pagan round-up, the stabbing out of the artists’ eyes by the jealous prince, and the raid by the Tartars show how religion could easily get you killed as much as save you.  With tons of symbolism and a path back to faith, the movie comes off as a story of redemption…though you could argue that Rublev didn’t really do anything wrong which required redemption (killing to protect an innocent).

andrei rublev irma raush

Mr. Rublev…this is very…impressionistic

A challenge for the movie is to try to figure out who the cast is.  Rublev is played by Anatoly Solonitsyn, and he is introduced at the same time as the characters of Daniil Chyomy (Nikolai Grinko) and Kirill (Ivan Lapikov) and it takes a bit for their personalities to come out…while the viewer not familiar with what is happening in the story is also trying to figure out what is occurring.  Later in the movie characters return like the Jester (Rolan Bykov), the princes, and Kirill you have to remember who they are and their roles to understand their significance.  Also notable are the performance by the simple Durochka (played by Irma Raush) and the young bell maker played by Nikolai Burlyayev.

andrei rublev christ the redeemer icon art

The real deal

Regardless how you feel about the plot of Andrei Rublev, the visuals of the film excel like many of Tarkovsky’s works.  The scale of the film feels immense and Tarkovsky uses it all much like a film by Bergman…the nature of the world feels rich and mysterious.  The film largely is in black-and-white but the final sequence features images of Rublev’s real work to close the movie.

Andrei Rublev is a challenge to watch, but if you have an interest in Tarkovsky’s work, Russia, or a movie with great visuals, than it is an effort worth making.  Don’t expect to finish it all in one sitting and don’t expect to “get it” if you go in blindly without occasionally referencing events in the film.  It doesn’t feel like a film you can really “spoil” so don’t be afraid to research and watch for a unique film that isn’t very comparable to many other works.  Tarkovsky followed Andrei Rublev with Solaris in 1972.

Related Links:

Solaris (1972)

Stalker (1979)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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