The life of a 15th century icon painter takes centre stage in Andrei Tarkovsky’s epic meditation on the place of art in turbulent times.
“As a rigorous meditation on faith, art, and creation in a time of fratricide and civil strife, as a moral fable, and as a bravura piece of filmmaking, Andrei Rublev is magnificent.”
G. C. Macnab, International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, 1990
Vividly recreating Russia at the time of the Tatar invasions, Andrei Tarkovsky’s fictionalised biography of the icon painter Andrei Rublev is a historical epic to rival Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible trilogy of the 1940s. In a frightening and barbaric medieval world, the wandering artist has his faith, and his faith in his art, sorely tested by the hellish brutalities he is confronted with.
Conceived on a vast scale, the film features several awe-inspiring set-pieces, including its opening hot-air balloon flight and the climatic casting of a giant bell. Though he shot in black and white, Tarkovsky switches to colour for the final montage of Rublev’s paintings. The film fell foul of the Soviet authorities and was not released domestically until 1971.
Tarkovsky’s subsequent film, Solaris (1972), is a meditative, philosophically searching science-fiction film. See The Seventh Seal (1957) for an equally brilliant cinematic imagining of the middle ages.