Solemn, magnificent, astounding: it's difficult to talk about Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev without resorting to adjectives. It's even more difficult to get those adjectives to encompass the sheer majesty of this tremendous film. Based on the life of a 15th century icon painter, Andrei Rublev is comprised of eight acts following Rublev (Anatoli Solonitsyn) through the political and social upheavals of medieval Russia. As famine, the Tartars, and torture prevail, Rublev loses all sense of artistic purpose and comes to renounce his voice, his faith, and his art.
"PERFECTION LINGERS IN EACH FRAME"
A frequent fixture of film polls, this deserves every line of praise that's been heaped upon it. Perfection lingers in each frame as Tarkovsky crafts one of the finest films ever made, an ecstatic story about art that has little interest in the artist himself, but in the power of art to transcend the age that produces it.
Lacking the cult credentials of Tarkovsky's later and more immediate sci-fi films Solaris and Stalker, Andrei Rublev delivers something more austere; a story of oblique mysticism that styles the artist as a Christ-like figure crucified by the brutality of the age as he wanders in search of redemption and - what may perhaps be ultimately the same thing - inspiration.
Rublev becomes Tarkovsky's own canvas, and it is on him that the filmmaker paints a vision of his belief in art as a means of rediscovering the spiritual. "There is only one way of thinking in cinema: poetically," Tarkovsky once wrote, and in Andrei Rublev he proves that time and time again. The black and white cinematography opens with a spectacular balloon ride, then takes us through snow falling in a burnt out temple, a horse tumbling down a flight of stairs, white paint flowing into a river, and - in its spellbinding final sequence - a giant bell tolling to reawaken Rublev's desire to paint.
In Russian with English subtitles.