It has been a long time since I sat down to write about Tarkovsky’s epic Andrei Rublev and even longer still since I actually watched the film, however I still remember clearly it was with a sense of trepidation that I approached it – knowing full well of it’s duration and what that would almost certainly bring in a film by an artist such a Tarkovsky. He who so often brings crippling boredom and stunning enlightenment in equal measure. Therefore I was wonderfully surprised when I was not bored in the slightest, and instead was reduced to a state of rapture by the sheer, restrained brutality of what followed
Rather than following typical narrative flow, the film threads together like a tapestry, showing glimmers of cruelty and tenderness in the extreme. What sits within this is a series of arias representing human events within the unyielding flow of time. These are somewhat like myths and folk-stories woven together by an intertwining journey, which the titular icon painter Andrei Rublev follows both geographically and mentally.
The visualisations of folklore that I can recall most strongly are: the balloon, the fool, the witches, the bell. These segues of narrative create temporal sinks within the overarching history Tarkovsky leads us through. I use the term folklore here entirely due to their isolated positions within the temporality of the film. Rather than acting as points within a cohesive narrative whole these sections provide us with a mirror of Rublev’s paintings – fables passed on through word of mouth until they are stilled upon the cathedral’s walls for all to see.