Dream is but a life: Andrei Tarkovsky’s movies suggest that the world is a mystic place, made stranger and more mysterious by the capricious regime called memory. “Andrei Rublev,” his 1966 portrait of the artist’s place, sufficiently complicated that it was banned for its complexity (among other things), is an epic, widescreen masterpiece like no other. On the big screen, you’re awestruck; even on Blu-ray, its audacity remains riveting. Tarkovsky’s pageant is replete with all manner of flora and fauna, and when projected, the shot from a hillside of a burning church in the valley below, which is then visited by a slow-motion duck flapping its wings as it descends through the frame, is an image as oneiric as they come. On the smaller screen, Tarkovsky’s adept geometry is more conspicuous in tableaux like this one: Tarkovsky hallucinates the apocryphal wanderings of an actual fourteenth-century visionary and painter of icons, as he composes his spiritual art against a backdrop of unremitting violence and conflict. (Tatar pillage has never been so ravishingly imagined.) The penultimate sequence—the communal casting of an immense bell, directed by a teenager who claims he knows the rare secret, and who then confides in Andrei that he’s a sham to the accompaniment of the first peals of the bell—is among the most startling movie scenes of them all, a climax that is visual, emotional, and the patient result of depicting process—craft and narrative alike—as tactile poetics of detail, gesture, mud, rain, fear and hope. 183m. 2.35 widescreen. (Ray Pride)
“Andrei Rublev” opens Friday, December 28 at Siskel.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.