With only his second film, Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky created what by even his lofty standards must be considered a masterpiece. While ostensibly a biopic of a 15th-century painter of religious icons, such a description is misleading. Andrei Rublev contains volumes: it’s a meditation on faith, a study of human cruelty, an intimate portrait of creative crisis and a screen epic of extraordinary scale. Few directors show equal acuity with the landscape of a human face and lavishly mounted war scenes with hundreds of extras, or could render both the tactile – the mud, the flames, the wind! – and the spiritual with such aplomb. While more approachable than Tarkovsky’s later works, his artistic signatures, including long patient takes, rigorously beautiful photography and uncompromisingly serious worldview, are all on display.
Suppressed for several years after completion, championed by filmmakers from Ingmar Bergman to Martin Scorsese (who once smuggled a print out of Russia), and a fixture on any serious list of the world’s greatest films, Andrei Rublev is an essential big screen experience (although those sensitive to animal cruelty are forewarned). Proudly presented in a new 4K restoration, in Tarkovsky’s preferred 183-minute cut. — Doug Dillaman
“[Tarkovsky’s] admirers verge on the worshipful, with good cause, and to be deluged by his movies – this one in particular – is to be initiated into sacred mysteries for which no rational explanation will suffice... You may dread being ground down by this extraordinary film, but fear not. It will bear you aloft.” — Anthony Lane, New Yorker