Iconic

Hollow faced Anatoly Solonitsyn is Andrei Rublev
Hollow faced Anatoly Solonitsyn is Andrei Rublev

In light of enjoying I’ve bought a box with all of Andrei Tarkovsky’s films in it and I’m working my way through the lot of them. I’ve never seen any of them before, which is a bit slack, but I’ve got the bit between my teeth now and I’m enjoying them

I was going to write something on each film but Tarkovsky’s first film, Ivan’s Childhood is functionally a similar story to Come and See and suffers a little in watching it so shortly after Klimev’s powerhouse. Though it is still a superb film, stark and beautifully photographed, with a dark denouement where a wire hoop holds the answer you didn’t want.

Andrei Rublev is a different beast entirely. Having wrestled with Mosfilm, the Russian film authority, on getting the film released it’s initially difficult to understand why. In fact, at first, to Western eyes dimmed by the constant parade of over edited, over stylised, gaudy and exposition heavy produce from America, it’s easy to be completely nonplussed at a film like Rublev. It’s black and white, set in the medieval 1400s and the main character is a bit of a non-entity. At three hours in length with an episodic story that has no apparent continuity it is, in the tradition of Russian literature, a forbidding experience.

It is amazing though. Despite an ominous reputation, the complexities of the presentation (what is the prologue about?) and its steadfast refusal to adhere to either Western expectations or the angry authorities of Russia itself, a quick look around the internet shows you a variety of fans who would agree. From film critics to arch-bishops. I flicked through my copy of Time Out’s 1000 Movies to see before you die viagra generique 50mg. Rublev has five separate page entries from their box-outs by film luminaries. Each of them mentions their experience of watching the film. Some even despising it first time around. But something about this monolith draws your thoughts. Even now, days after I’ve finished watching it, I’m still thinking about it. Pondering on its meaning. Striving to understand. What is it about, what is it saying, what is its purpose?

I’m not sure I’ve readily got the answer to any of those questions.  Rublev is wrapped in metaphor, it requires some knowledge of the context of the production, a little knowledge of the Tatars (and even the Golden Horde) doesn’t hurt and perhaps even a brief understanding of the work of Rublev himself. I’ve had to read up on this since watching the film and it uncovers and explains the basis of the story but that’s only really on a surface level. The essence of it is that this is a film that demands ‘reading’. This is not junk food, this is a complex and layered banquet with depths of flavour that would have Heston Blumenthal salivating.

Two sequences stand out. The Tatar sacking of a city in which Rublev is working is a brutal and unforgiving siege with torture, rape and pretty shocking scenes of a horse falling down a set of stairs and a cow on fire (yes, a cow, on fire) all on the menu. This precipitates Rublev’s vow of silence and refusal to paint for several years. Until his meeting with the young Boriska (played by the ridiculously talented boy from Ivan’s Childhood), where he witnesses the boy plough every ounce of his energy into casting a massive bronze bell for a local dignitary. What is Tarkovsky saying? I think it is something to do with finding the value in work, in creation. In seeing the benefit of bringing a message to people. Some might suggest that Tarkovsky’s struggle in creating the film is a reasonable mirror of Rublev’s contemplation. Is it worth the trouble of creating? Of finding the precision and talent to craft something which can be destroyed so easily? Such is the richness of the film I’m not sure I can answer that satisfactorily.

Solaris is next. Described in the Neon book of 1000 Essential Movies on Video as ‘The cinematic equivalent of queuing for bread.’ So that’ll be a rollercoaster ride too.

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