Andrei Rublev (1966) - 9/10
Andrei Tarkovsky is one of my favorite filmmakers of all time. His films evoke mysterious feelings that I rarely find in other movies. Not only do his films have impressive cinematography, but they also come with grand stories despite how simple they seem at first. Since this film was over 3 hours, I was a little concerned that I'd have trouble getting into it. However, I found it to be a truly engaging experience.
A couple decades in the life of the famous medieval Russian painter Andrei Rublev is depicted in this epic. We see his interactions between other painters, buffoons, pagans, and Tatars. These experiences shape and influence his actions over the course of the film.
I first began to pick up on the movie's themes when I asked the question: What caused Andrei to refuse to paint the church walls in Chapter 5? When I re-watched the movie with this in mind, I began to see the movie as a representation of dehumanization. In several of the opening chapters, Andrei witnessed many people either get beaten or killed. He also witnessed several bizarre sites such as seeing a group of naked pagans running through the woods. These experiences effected him in many ways such as how he refused to decorate the walls of a church or how he murdered a Tatar to save someone during a raid. With this, Tarkovsky is saying that the brutality of the world caused Andrei to lose interest in painting.
I also liked the prologue and the final chapter of the film. At first glance, the prologue felt misplaced as the characters in the opening scene were never seen again. However, I think Tarkovsky did this on purpose as he was trying to let the audience know that this was one of the films' most vital scenes. I've seen a few theories on what purpose the opening serves. Some people said that it exists to introduce us to the brutality of the world. My interpretation, however, is that it and the final chapter serve as bookends to Andrei's journey. The opening scene depicts a man named Yefim escape an angry crowd in a hot air balloon only to crash and, presumably, die. The final chapter shows a boy named Boriska attempt to build a bell for the Grand Prince. The thing that Yefim, Andrei, and Boriska have in common is that they are all artists and visionaries in some way as they attempt to overcome odds to create something awe-inspiring. Both of these men bookend Andrei's journey. Yefim represents the death of an old artist while Boriska represents the birth of a new artist. Near the end of the film, Andrei comforts Boriska after he admits that his father never told him the secret to building bells. I interpreted this scene as Andrei trying to encourage the boy to remain interested in art, so he could eventually replace him.
Tarkovsky usually handles dialogue exceptionally. If I pay close attention to the dialogue in his films, I find a lot of it to be thought provoking and powerful. There were many great lines of dialogue in this film. The first great scene of dialogue is in Chapter 3. In it, Andrei has a conversation with Theophanes, another famous Russian painter. Their dialogue shows the main difference between them. During their conversation, Theophanes says "People will lump the blame for their sins on one another...will be justifying themselves before the almighty." Andrei replies to him with "I don't understand how you can paint, having thoughts like that." This scene shows the personality traits of both men. I explained earlier how this film is based heavily on dehumanization. Their conversation is a great representation of this. The reason Theophanes has these thoughts while Andrei doesn't is because Theophanes is much older than Andrei. He has seen more of the world's brutality. Andrei hasn't seen enough of it yet to relate to Theophanes' world views. Another great scene of dialogue happens in Chapter 6. After Andrei survives a raid, he encounters the ghost of Theophanes. Andrei tells Theophanes that he is disgusted by how he killed a Tatar during the raid. He mourns the loss of his work and the evil in the world he lives in. He may not have agreed with Theophanes in Chapter 3, but later on, he eventually concurs with him. The reason for this change is because the numerous instances of brutality Andrei encountered caused him to become dehumanized over time.
The cinematography was also haunting. A lot of classic movies which were praised for their haunting cinematography back in the day don't unsettle me that much. However, there were some legitimately unnerving moments in this movie which held up pretty well. Most of them were in Chapter 6. Some scenes which stood out from that sequence was how liquid metal was poured into someone's mouth, when a horse fell down a flight of stairs, when a cow was lit on fire, and, like I mentioned earlier, the conversation between Andrei and Theophanes. There's also numerous shots of horses which Tarkovsky said were a symbol of life, the most famous of which occurs at the final shot.
In my review of "Stalker", I compared Tarkovsky to Stanley Kubrick, my favorite filmmaker, by calling him the "Russian Kubrick". I feel like this is a valid comparison, because both filmmakers create movies with simple, yet grand stories. The more I watch Tarkovsky's films, the more this viewpoint gets enforced. "Andrei Rublev" sets itself apart from other movies based on true stories due to its thematic power on dehumanization, which is carried from the first half to the next.