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March 22, 2004 | by  | in Film |
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(Classic Film Review) Andrei Rublev

It must be hard being Russian. Everything seems to be so depressing, from their history to their people to their art. Or, as this film attempts to prove, is that a gross generalization? Sure it’s heavy, depressing and typically Russian, but its conclusion is as uplifting as you’ll find in film (oh so subtly).

The film is about the life of a monk, Andrei Rublev, who was a icon painter in fifteenth century Russia. It is a country ravaged by invasion from the Tartars, famine, paganism and brutal violence. In amongst this, Rublev tries to live a chaste and withdrawn existence. However, as history is always subjective, Rublev finds himself experiencing the horrors and taking part in the violence and despair. The conclusion is so powerful, although all it shows are his paintings, because the art had proved a means to transcend everything he had experienced.

The film is divided into episodes of his adult life where themes of sin, redemption, history, nature and sacrifice feature. The most important exploration is the nature of art. Tarkovsky concludes art should serve a communal need not merely self-expression, and could therefore fulfil human’s true potential. This is shown by the penultimate episode with the boy who attempts to cast a bell despite not knowing how. This is not an historical film, but a celebration of the artist who survives terrible times – the Soviet censors thought it was allegorical and it was banned for five years.

Tarkovsky is not an easy director to watch – his films are slow (i.e. boring), philosophical (i.e. wanky) difficult (i.e. pretentious), but they are also films that are extremely spiritually and artistically rewarding to a patient viewer. His films contain some of the most beautiful images on celluloid and he manages to raise film to that of art. Andrei Rublev and his first film Ivan’s Childhood are probably the easiest of his oeuvre to watch, (personally my favourite is The Mirror (1974) but I’m wanky) yet that does mean the audience is in for an easy ride. However, it is fully worth it.

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About the Author ()

Brannavan Gnanalingam has come a long way from being born in the teeming metropolis of Colombo, Sri Lanka. He may be known as feature writer for Salient, but is also the only man in history to have simultaneously donated both his kidneys. He is also an amateur rapper going under the moniker Brantank and hopes to win a Grammy.

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