Immediately suppressed by the Soviets in 1966, Andrei Tarkovsky's epic masterpiece is a sweeping medieval tale of Russia's greatest icon painter. Too experimental, too frightening, too violent, and too politically complica... more »ted to be released officially, Andrei Rublev has existed only in shortened, censored versions until the Criterion Collection created this complete 205-minute director's cut special edition, now available for the first time on DVD.« less
Wing J. Flanagan | Orlando, Florida United States | 01/24/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tarkovsky's Andre Rublev plows the same ground as Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ, but with greater success. No, I haven't been smoking anything; I'm serious. A collection of metaphorically related vignettes that loosely follows the life of Russia's great medieval artist, Andrei Rublev is about nothing less than the struggle between mankind's spiritual and carnal natures. It is also one of the rare films featuring Christianity that neither belittles the faithful nor condescends to them. I'll take this film over The Robe, The Greatest Story Ever Told or even Ben Hur any day of the week. All the same, this film is not typical wholesome family entertainment of the Disney variety. It's more like the cinematic equivalent of broccoli - you may or may not like the flavor, but it's good for you. There is nudity. There is violence. If you're an animal lover, it may give you nightmares (at least two horses and one cow probably died in the process of filming). But you know, the Bible itself is full of plenty of that kind of stuff. What makes it palatable is the moral context - the material is in service of an authentically moving spiritual journey. The film may not shy away from the ugliness of medieval Russian peasant life, but it also does not shy away from the message of redemption through grace - and I'm not referring to "grace" in an exclusively Christian context. While grace wears Russian Orthodox garb in this film, the concept expands to occupy a more universal definition through the use of strong metaphorical imagery. Grace, it seems to suggest, is a state of mind: if you believe it is a gift from God, this film will probably affirm your faith; if not, it will won't offend you with overt evangelism. The beauty of Andre Rublev is that, like life itself, it places its world before you in all its wonder and horror, and then lets you decide what to make of it. It strives to illuminate the human condition, rather than preach platitudes.The best art has a way of doing that.As for the DVD itself, Criterion has done a marvelous job of pulling together some rare documentary material, as well as enlisting the aid of Harvard film professor Vlada Petric in the creation of a somewhat dry, academic commentary track. My one complaint is that the transfer, while supposedly made digitally from a pristine 35mm print, lacks sharpness. It is also not anamorphic 16x9, which I consider an essential feature of any DVD of a film shot wider than 1.66:1. All the same, Andre Rublev is an indispensable film for the serious cinephile's collection."
If you liked Titanic, then take a hike. Otherwise...
Mad Dog | Canada | 08/18/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Tarkovksy's films are not for everyone. He is the Russian equivalent of Kubrick or Kurasawa or Welles, and he is as different from them as they are from each other. If you're expecting a conventional structure and pacing, you'll be dissapointed. Rublev requires patience.Most people consider the film long and slow. The trick is to stop waiting for the narrative to develop and just experience the sequences as self-contained ideas. After a couple of hours you'll see it working up to something you hadn't thought possible at first. And by the two-hundred minute mark, it evolves into a complete emotional and cinematic experience.I'm serious. It's amazing. *This* is Tarkovsky's gift.By his own admission he was always more fascinated with the "poetry" of images than their immediate narrative value. As a result his films deliver an experience which is unique to every viewer. This is no mean feat; today directors strive to make the global audience feel "happy" or "sad" according to a pre-defined and market-oriented narrative structure. It's a cheap manipulation (like "Titanic" and the damn theme music). Tarkovksy doesn't go there at all. He shows you something and lets you feel whatever you want. This isn't a cheap cop-out from an inept director, it's *your* experience. And a dangerous approach in a world where audiences expect to be cued when and how to react. Have you ever noticed how upset people get when left to their own emotional devices?Tarkovsky has mastered the long-take, mise-en-scene, and the wide-screen (2.35) frame, and the Critereon transfer does it's best to present this. There are technical problems with the transfer, but having seen Rublev on a pan-and-scan VHS, the extra bucks are still worth it. And the additional resolution of DVD gives the image more texture and detail.Side Note:One of the tragedies (now being slowly rectified thanks to DVD) of modern cinema is the pan-and-scan VHS. Many lesser works can survive it ("Titanic" again!), but it has ruined almost every one of Tarkovsky's films. He composes very deliberate frames, balanced in a way that only wide-screen can accomodate ("The Sacrifice" was the exception, shot 1.66 I believe). The VHS transfers are claustrophobic and uncomfortable (showing only 60% of the image), but in their true aspect ratio his shots are spacious and carefully composed.The accompanying materials (intervews and commentary) are interesting, but dryly presented by academics. A shame, since this is the type of film that Martin Scorcese could do a fantastic commentary for.And be warned, there are moments of horrific violence and cruelty.Since the Reagan administration came to power, the west has lost track of Eastern European cinema. It had (has) a style and direction as unique as the Japanese or British. Tarkovsky is one of it's gems, and no one who considers themselves a conoseur of film can go without a Tarkorvsky viewing.My personal favourites are "Stalker", "My Name Is Ivan", and "The Sacrifice", and of course "Solaris" -- unfortunately the only one I've seen in it's Wide Aspect is "Sacrifice". But Tarkovsky is one of the greatest directors in history, and "Andrei Rublev" is still an amazing film.Bye the way,If you're not quite ready for the plunge into Tarkovsky, try the documentary "Andrei Tarkovsky Directs", which is an action packed account of the making of "The Sacrifice"."
A Piece of Modern Art
Mad Dog | 10/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Andrei Rublev is not only one of the most difficult films to describe, it is also one of the most beautiful films ever made. It flows like a long Russian novel, with interworking subplots and interwoven themes. The rich fiction created by Konchalovsky and Tarkovsky, based on the late medieval Russian icon painter Andrei Rublev, raises many important questions concerning life, the soul, and art. Above all, there is something elegantly and radiantly lyrical about the film, scene by scene. The film itself is divided into vignettes, or what I like to refer to as chapters, recounting different periods in Rublev's life; each one could be its own film, namely the last section about the bell and the young bellmaker. However, the most poetic scenes involve the Holy Fool, or Durochka, played by Tarkovsky's wife Irma Raush. Her character adds a touchingly humorous, yet tender aspect to the film; her relationship with Rublev is so sweet and almost childlike, it brings a true smile to your face. Throughout the film, Tarkovsky is able to catch the incredibly earth-shattering expressions on the character's faces, symbolzing oppression from war and Tatar raids, poverty and inequality. One simple look of an eye speaks a thousand words in this film. The vignette entitled The Jester displays some of the most wonderful examples of the human condition ever in film; the beating rain on the primitive hut combined with the tired, worn out, wretched faces of the peasants (including children, men, women, and elderly), is so realistic you can taste it. Tarkovsky is indeed a modern master, and Andrei Rublev is quite possibly his masterpiece. Tarkovsky's work ranks with so many of the great modern artists, not filmmakers, but painters and photographers: Cartier-Bresson, Freud, Picasso, Matisse, O'Keefe, Stieglitz, etc. Anchoress, a film obviously influenced by Andrei Rublev, particularly in cinematography, is recommended also for anyone who enjoys intellectually and visually impressive cinema."
Being Andrei Tarkovsky.
Justin | Scottsdale, Arizona | 01/29/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first time I saw Andrei Rublev I fell asleep after the first fifteen minutes. The second time I saw it I stayed wide awake for the entire viewing. I was impressed by its visual grandeur and its message so much that it is one of the five best films that I have ever seen. It is one of the first films to convince me that that excellent films can be extremely challenging to watch. Despite some of the most disturbing scenes I have ever scene, I no longer view film as a diversion but as an exploration. It is atmospheric, heavenly, gothic, spooky, dreamy, frightening, and thought-provoking. The definitive 205-minute version released by Criterion does an excellent job in restoring some very important scenes which add to the flow of the film and make it easier to understand. I highly recommend it."
Sublime Cinematic Magic
ateliermp | New York, New York | 10/12/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have endured Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev twice now - once on VHS and once on DVD (the 205-minute Criterion Collection version) - and I have yet to penetrate its ultimate secret. The film is audacious and - as many, many will say/have said - epic without the added difficulty of being ponderous. It might simply be that Tarkovsky was a poet and not an intellectual. His work has been mischievously compared with Godard's or Antonioni's but is completely different. The latter two magnificent gentlemen invariably speak to your intellect. Tarkovsky speaks to your soul. Russian (Slavic) soulfulness is legendary, but Tarkovsky is not nostalgic; nor is his work particularly "spiritual" in the usual sense - i.e. moralistic. Andrei Rublev is 1 000 times better than any of Bergman's films and I like Bergman without reservation. To fathom the immense elan of this film one must suspend the expectation for significance imparted to cinema by 10 000 lesser films. Tarkovsky manages something that only the most sublime works of art can "picture" - a panorama of self projected upon world and a complex, associative magic that is irreducible to verbal or critical formulae. Please see this film, if ever you have lamented the porridge poured over our heads by would-be auteurs in the name of cinema. The central conceit of a half-historic, half-fictionalized Russian icon painter of the 15th century wandering about in search of life itself will more than compensate for the cruel gruel of most contemporary filmmaking."