27 August 2010

Andrei Rublev by Andrei Tarkovsky

{scenes from Andrei Rublev, the film by Tarkovsky}

UCI has a summer film series sponsored by the Film and Media Studies department, and Jan, J. and I went to watch the 1966 Russian film, Andrei Rublev by Andrei Tarkovsky.  I had no idea who Andrei Rublev was but at the mention of his name, J. and Jan spoke in exclamation points and said I must see him and that I would love him while also praising Tarkovsky.  I thought Andrei Rublev was an art house film director.  When I found out another Andrei had made a film about Andrei Rublev, I thought then that Rublev must be a contemporary artist.

Wrong on both counts.  Andrei Rublev was a Russian monk and icon painter who lived in the 1400s, a violent and turbulent time in Russian history.  Rublev's art and vision was shaped by his struggle to reconcile the violence and suffering he saw with the love of God.  Before going into the film, the nice folks hosting the series gave us water bottles, junior mints, and cheese popcorn and said, "It's going to be a long film.  Take as many water bottles as you'd like."

Holy cow.  Three and a half hours later, my butt was numb and I was starting to get back pain. Because the film didn't depict Andrei Rublev's work until the very end, I had no idea who he was in relation to his icons until the last five minutes (this goes to show how ignorant I am of icon history--any person in the know would know this info).  Then I finally got it.  Oh my gosh, he's the guy that painted the Trinity?

 {the Trinity by Andrei Rublev}

I first encountered the Trinity in Taize, France which was also the first time I had experienced the use of icons in worship.  I was drawn to the beauty of the icon and the fact that they were all hanging out on a box and every time you look at one person, you're drawn to looking at another, and then another.  A cyclical meditation happens without even trying and there's something about that box that makes them seem so human, so relateable, yet holy.

The film was beautiful and uncomfortable in its portrayal of the brutality and suffering of those times.  I had lots of thoughts about how glad I am and lucky I am to not be born into a feudal society or a nation ravaged by civil violence.  It puts things in perspective.  It makes me more realistic about life and about doing what I can right now and not trying to be a rock star.  I also loved Tarkovsky's interpretation of the need for beauty in our lives and the ways in which our talents are divine gifts that should be used, even in the face of hardship and adversity and other pressing physical needs.  Jan and J. had more art film intellectual thoughts. :)  It was the first time in a long time that I've seen a film address the harsh realities of being human.  No escapisim here.  No siree.

I will say though that I was most disturbed by the scene of a horse falling down the stairs and dying.  It was one long shot and looked undeniably real.  Animals were definitely harmed in the filming of this movie.  :(  There's a also a scene where an angry monk just beats the shit out of a dog.  That looked totally real too.  Ach.

The film, tis good.  It's deep.  It draws you into contemplation.  Like all Tarkovsky movies, or so it seems, I think I need to watch the film again to catch the details and attention to symbol.

Highly recommended-with friends, junior mints, popcorn, and a butt cushion.

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