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Film / Andrei Rublev

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Andrei Rublev (or "The Passion According to Andrei") is a 1966 film by Andrei Tarkovsky, co-written by Tarkovsky and Andrei Konchalovsky. It is loosely based on the life of Russia's famous icon painter of the same name. It is the movie that launched the director to international attention after its warm reception at the Cannes Film Festival.

The movie is notable for its troubled production and numerous issues with the Soviet Union's strict censorship board. It is Tarkovsky's longest and most violent film and was only available in heavily cut versions until The Criterion Collection DVD release in 1999, which restored the film to its original 205-minute run time.

As with most Tarkovsky films, it eschews a traditional narrative structure, relying on episodic vignettes that take place around the life of Rublev, with the man himself often taking a backseat to the actions on-screen depicting the time. Interestingly, the film never once depicts Andrei Rublev painting, and is entirely in black and white until an ending montage of Rublev's work in blazing color. It is quite depressing, but also considered to be a shining example of one of the 20th century's greatest creative minds at the height of his power.


This film provides examples of:

  • Art Shift: The otherwise black and white film finally shows color in the closing scenes when displaying the actual icon paintings of Rublev.
  • The Atoner:
    • Andrei after killing a man in defense of Durochka.
    • Kirill, who spends his last days copying scripture as penance for his jealousy-driven fit of rage against his fellow monks.
  • Biopic: Averted. While the film does fall into this genre, the movie is actually ABOUT the relationship between art and faith, not Andrei Rublev's life (about which very few facts are known).
  • Bittersweet Ending: At the end, Andrei relents his vow of silence (literal and artistic) and goes on to paint his most famous icons. However, there's no doubt that he remained emotionally scarred for life after all of the devastation and cruelty that he witnessed first-hand.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Played for Drama with Durochka and justified due to being mentally handicapped. She becomes easily upset at very trivial inconveniences and is often oblivious to the gravitas of horrors she and Andrei often encounter.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture:
    • After the attack on the cathedral, Patrikei screams in pain while being tortured with fire to reveal the location of gold, which he refuses to do so. Eventually, he has molten metal from his cross poured into his mouth and dragged out of the cathedral with a horse.
    • The Russian authorities are hardly more humane than the Tatars (a point lampshaded by one of the Tatar commanders). For instance, the Skomorokh has part of his tongue cut out just for cracking some harmless jokes about the Boyars.
  • Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: When the group around Rublev is boating on a river, they spot Marfa and Fyodor chased by the soldiers on the shore. Rublev orders Sergei, the young boy in the group, not to look at this, before an older woman grabs him and covers his eyes.
  • Crapsack World: As would have been the case in 15th century Russia, Andrei inhabits a world of squalid poverty and superstitious ignorance, tyrannical rule by cruel princes, frequent raids by murderous Tatar hordes, and villages wiped out by the plague.
  • Death Is Dramatic:
    • The death of Rublev's young apprentice Foma. During the Tatar assault, he gets hit by an arrow in the back. We see him tumble in slow-mo until he finally falls over into the river and is carried away by the currents.
    • Also the reenactment of Christ's Crucifixion.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Though black and white film was probably used to partially save money on a long and extravagant film, it was not a necessity demonstrated by the ending montage.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • The Skomorokh is beaten, imprisoned for years, and has part of his tongue cut out just for singing a bawdy song poking fun at the Boyars' vanity.
    • Several of the artisans working on the Vladimir Cathedral for Archduke Vasily leave when he orders them to redo the paintings, saying that they'll get better treatment from his hated brother Prince Yuriy and will make his palace more beautiful than Vasily's. The archduke sends his soldiers to gouge out their eyes so that they will never work their craft again.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Andrei is so shocked and fascinated by the sight of a naked pagan girl offering herself to her lover in the bushes that he steps into the campfire and burns his robe.
  • The Dung Ages: Medieval Russia, evidently, was not fun: mud and filth are everywhere, and most of the people, especially those in power, routinely engage in depraved cruelty, often for its own sake.
  • Elective Mute: To atone for killing a man, Andrei decides to give up painting and takes a vow of silence. It takes 15 years until he breaks his silence, in the scene where he comforts the young bellmaker.
  • Epic Movie: Tarkovsky’s only example in his filmography and a fascinating variation of this genre. While it is much more narratively eventful in contrast to Tarkovsky’s other projects; and has handfuls of grand-scale, dynamic, and visually stunning plot points; it is still maneuvered and crafted through Tarkovsky’s signature down-to-earth and esoteric style. The results aren’t exactly “exciting” or crowd-pleasing”, but are evocative and arresting.
  • Evil is Petty: Archduke Vasily has the eyes of several architects and painters gouged out by his soldiers to prevent the artisans from beautifying the palace and cathedral of his hated brother Prince Yuriy.
  • Eye Scream: Getting your eyes gouged out by someone's knife counts.
  • Le Film Artistique: A shining example. It’s also a demonstration and exercise in what an Epic Movie would look and feel like if filtered through this approach. The results are quite mythic and entrancing.
  • The Fool: Durochka (that is her nickname, which is the female diminutive of "fool" in Russian).
  • Gorn: Quite potent for a film of the period. There's a cow being set on fire, a horse falling down from a flight of stairs, people having their eyes gouged by soldiers, and a man tortured and murdered by having molten metal poured into his mouth.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Kirill's breakdown is driven by his realization that in contrast to Andrei, he has no artistic talent.
  • Heroic BSoD: Andrei, after hearing the news about the ambush in the woods. Also, after the massacre in cathedral, which causes him to stop painting and become deliberately mute for many years.
  • High Hopes, Zero Talent: Kirill is a tragic example of this when he realizes how untalented he is, since his only ambition in life was to be a great icon painter.
  • Holier Than Thou: Kirill is very self-righteous in his attitudes towards both his fellow monks and lay people. He condemns harmless fun with a jester as being "of the Devil" and in his rant against his fellow monks when he leaves the order, Kirill claims that they value material wealth and power more than Godliness. It's all a mask to cover his jealousy of Andrei and other artists at the monastery who are more talented than he is.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: On a path through the woods soldiers accost the artisans on the orders of the Grand Prince and gouge their eyes out. The only person coming out unharmed is the young boy Sergei.
  • Informed Ability: Rublev is never, ever shown actually picking up a brush to paint.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: The pagan girl Marfa. Averted with Durochka due to her mental illness and slovenly appearance.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Prince Yuriy successfully leads an assault on the city of Vladimir (which is loyal to his brother, Archduke Vasily) with the aid of a Tatar chieftan, destroying the city and murdering most of its residents. In the final chapter, we find that Vasily eventually defeated his renegade brother in a later battle and had him executed. Of course, there is little to celebrate in Vasily's victory, since the Archduke is nearly as brutal (though not as treacherous) as his brother.
  • Kick the Dog: When Kirill leaves the monastery, his dog catches up to him, only for Kirill to beat him to death with his walking stick out of rage.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: Archduke Vasily is a tyrannical and cruel prince - in one scene he has the eyes of artisans gouged just to prevent them from beautifying his brother's palace, in another it's implied that if the bell-makers' work doesn't satisfy him, he'll have them flogged at best and possibly executed. On the other hand, Vasily is still more sympathetic than his brother Prince Yuriy, who allies himself with Tatars and aids them in the slaughter of his fellow Russians simply for being loyal to his brother the Archduke. Cruel though he is, at least Vasily isn't a traitor.
  • Meaningful Name: "Durochka" means "little fool."
  • Morality Pet: Andrei takes Durochka under his care after the massacre at Vladimir, as a living reminder of what he perceived to be his own moral failure (having killed a man to protect her from rape).
  • My God, What Have I Done?: There is a single moment where Prince Yuriy's conscience stings him a little after allying himself with the Tatars against the Russian city of Vladimir. The look on his face when he sees the Russian Orthodox cathedral destroyed, burned, and stripped of its riches by the Tatars does suggest shame and regret.
  • The Middle Ages: A very accurate, unromanticized, and unflinching depiction.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Rublev imagines a conversation with the dead Theophanes the Greek, in which the latter jumps places offscreen.
  • Old Master: Theophanes the Greek.
  • The Plague: Killed the parents of Boriska and most of the rest of his village.
  • Posthumous Character: Andrei imagines a conversation with his long-deceased mentor and colleague Theophanes the Greek inside the ruins of the Vladimir Cathedral after it's sacked by Vasily and the Tatars.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: While on the way to Moscow, a horde of Mongol-Tatars decide to prey on the undefended town of Vladimir. Men are cut down and shot with arrows, thatched roofs are set aflame, women of all ages are raped; general pandemonium ensues. The majority of the townfolk barricade themselves in the town's cathedral. What makes it so heinous is that they are being guided by a pretender to the Moscovian throne and many Russians are among their ranks.
  • Scenery Porn: Much of the rural Russian landscape is quite beautiful, often in stark contrast to the less than idyllic life in the towns and villages.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Fellow monk Kirill, after losing a prominent commission to Andrei. He spends the rest of his life regretting his actions and trying to atone for them.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Of a particularly murderous sort between Archduke Vasily and his brother Prince Yuriy, who covets the throne.
  • The Stool Pigeon: Kirill believes that the Skomorokh's bawdy humor is of the devil, and wastes no time in reporting his jokes at the Boyar's expense to the authorities, resulting in the poor jester being tortured and imprisoned for a decade.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Durochka abandons Andrei and his fellow monks to live with one of the Tatar raiders, despite everything that Andrei has done for her and the Tatars' brutality. Justified in that she's probably too simple-minded to understand any of this.
  • Womanchild: Played for Drama and exaggerated with Durochka. She exhibits the behavior and worldview of a voiceless toddler despite being a grown woman; in stark contrast to the volatile environment she lives in.

Alternative Title(s): The Passion According To Andrei

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