Responsible for some of the greats, Andrei Tarkovsky can do no wrong with his beautifully crafted films. Solaris and Stalker were incredible endeavours into psychological stability and science fiction. They were explorations of the deep unconscious, incredible musings on morality and mortality. Mirror was much the same, albeit in a more caricature, segmented approach with a looser connection and an easy-flowing narrative. I could drone on and on about the various levels of love I have for all of these films, but I was eagerly awaiting a viewing of Andrei Rublev, a film to be considered as a more grounded work, as he looks to put the life of this titular painter to film.
As lucid as I’d expected it to be, Andrei Rublev rumbles through the life of the titular painter with such visionary, marvellous detail. Featuring as much painting as it does tennis or cheese appreciation, it’s amazing that Rublev is far more interesting than just a man with a few brushes and canvases. Explored by Tarkovsky as a figure of great political and religious importance, one that becomes disillusioned with God and humanity, and soon leaves his life behind for isolation and art. The film is all about easing the mind, to relax the soul and conquer fear. Andrei Rublev is perhaps my favourite message to come from Tarkovsky so far, not because it’s his strongest, but because it feels like his most clear and complete.
Recurring collaborators, Tarkovsky casts Anatoliy Solonitsyn in the titular role, and Solonitsyn does remarkable work the whole way through. A versatile performance is presented, one with depth and woe woven into the fabric of such a convincingly memorable leading performance. He captures the message Tarkovsky wishes to muse on with such ease, yet such enabling vigour. This leading performance is a striking portrayal of the painter, whose work isn’t so much displayed with confidence as it is alluded to through the deeds of the man we follow. Solonitsyn portrays Rublev as tormented, an accidental feature in a war or world that is otherwise oblivious to him and his nature. His stumbling and fumbling lead him to prophetic wisdom, to greater ventures than he should have ever expected, and it’s by far the strongest cog in Tarkovsky’s machine here.
An expansive, versatile and beautiful biopic that somehow condenses key components of medieval Russian history into seamless, one scene depictions, Andrei Rublev is a near masterpiece. Nothing short of one of the finest pieces Tarkovsky ever put to film, the dedication of his craft is a beautiful sight to behold. However, having said that, it’s not the best work from Tarkovsky, and his science-fiction, mind-bending works within Stalker and Solaris edge it out of contention for his greatest film. Still, it’s a testament to the amazing work of the director that he can outshine his own work time and time again.