Shot over the course of September of 1964 to August of 1966, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev tells the story of an “otherworldly hero” who “wanders across a landscape of forlorn splendor—observing suffering peasants, hallucinating the scriptures, working for brutal nobles until, having killed a man in the sack of Vladimir, he takes a vow of silence and gives up painting.” Shot with an exacting beauty, like much of Tarkovsky’s work, the film evokes a strong feeling of touch and place—a “film of the earth” as he called it. And today we have a look behind-the-scenes, on set with the cinematic genius on gorgeously worn-out color.
Speaking to the film, J. Hoberman wrote:
On the other hand, the film projects an entire world—or rather the sense that, as predicted by André Bazin’s “Myth of Total Cinema,” the world itself is trying to force its way through the screen. Undirectable creatures animate Tarkovsky’s compositions—a cat bounds across a corpse-strewn church, wild geese flutter over a savaged city. The birch woods are alive with water snakes and crawling ants, the forest floor yields a decomposing swan. The soundtrack is filled with bird calls and wordless singing; there’s always a fire’s crackle or a tolling bell in the background.Andrei Rublev is itself more an icon than a movie about an icon painter. (Perhaps it should be seen as a “moving icon,” in the same sense that the Lumière brothers made “moving pictures.”) This is a portrait of an artist in which no one lifts a brush. The patterns are God’s, a close-up of spilled paint swirling into pond water or the clods of dirt Rublev flings against a whitewashed wall. But no movie has ever attached greater significance to the artist’s role. It’s as though Rublev’s presence justifies creation.