Andrei Rublev

In the starkest terms, Andrei Tarkovsky’s film is a historical biopic of the great icon painter Andrei Rublev, a medieval monk who became one of Russia’s most treasured national heroes. In actuality, the drama overspills from the life of one man to encompass a varied cast of characters, offering a vision of Rublev that is both panoramic and partial.

From violent Tartar raids to naked pagan rituals, Andrei Rublev exposes the full spectrum of life in 15th-century Russia through a series of unpredictable episodes creating a vast and disparate tapestry of medieval life. Its full beauty blooms in the film’s final scenes, which introduce a vision of vibrant splendour.

Created in the USSR during the Brezhnev era, Andrei Rublev was censored in Russia for years after its release, supposedly due to the Christian spiritualism at its core. Despite the suffering he witnesses, Tarkovsky’s Rublev maintains his religious faith and belief in the goodness of humankind. 

A highly original and sophisticated feature, Andrei Rublev is a favourite of critics across the world and regularly features in Sight & Sound’s “Greatest Films of All Time” list, which collates votes from a range of industry insiders. One such figure, the film critic Roger Clarke, praises Tarkovsky’s work as “cinematic poetry of the highest order”.

The film explores how art can offer solace and encourage endurance in turbulent times – a message of hope that was as powerful in Rublev’s Dark Ages as it was in contemporary 1960s Russia. As Tarkovsky said, “Art exists to help us deal with the world’s imperfection.”

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