Andrei Tarkovsky is a formable auteur. His films are usually slow, in black and white (or almost too bright and saturated color), and about psychological progressions in character instead of actual cause and effect plot. Not to mention his insane running time. (This film is three hours and twenty minutes.) However once you make the plunge and commit yourself to watching his films, you are absorbed in a world that is so thought out it is breath-taking.
Andrei Rublev is about a medieval Russian icon painter, but it isn’t about his paintings, really. It is about his subconscious, about his ever evolving ideals and about the people around him who effect his creative output. In fact you never see Rublev actually working on a painting ever. Instead you watch Rublev’s exchanges with the outside world as he tries to make sense of the cruel world he lives in.
What is most fascinating about this film is the completely subjective camera shots. Rublev is a monk that lives simply and tries to be as humble as possible. Therefore the camera is always pointed towards the ground and is economizes the tricks in order to make them more effective. This suggestiveness comes across in a journey that Rublev takes. While in the woods, he stumbles upon a pagan ritual. Naked women and men laugh, make love, frolic and perform rituals. This scene is treated with such wonder and naiveness that it reflects what Rublev is feeling as he is caught up in witnessing this strange affair. However his wonder does not last long. The next scene is depicts a raid upon these pagans and it is seen by Rublev with his companions. He is stern in the overt violence and suppression, so the camera is more direct in its shots. When the woman who tied him up and kissed him in the last scene is seen swimming away from her aggressors, the camera follows her with a pity that is only overwhelmed by the picture of Rublev watching her. His humanity bursts through this need to be austere.
Andrei Rublev is a film that lets the viewer breath and live in. The viewer is a part of this world and is Rublev’s companion, the only one that truly gets him. Why was he so fascinated by this bell founder’s son who boasted that he could cast a bell that rung? It is the same reason that the viewer is fascinated by watching him move through this world that is so far removed from our experience but at the same time is a permanent world that never changes. I would give this film two watches, if you can. And be patient. The love for the film will come.