Andrei Rublev (film)
|Directed by||Andrei Tarkovsky|
|Produced by||Tamara Ogorodnikova [A]|
|Written by||Andrei Konchalovsky
|Music by||Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov|
|Release dates||December 24, 1971|
|Running time||205 min. (original version)|
Andrei Rublev (Russian: Андрей Рублёв, Andrey Rublyov), also known as The Passion According to Andrei, is a 1966 Russian film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky from a screenplay written by him and Andrei Konchalovsky. The film is loosely based on the life of Andrei Rublev, the great 15th-century Russian icon painter. The film features Anatoly Solonitsyn, Nikolai Grinko, Ivan Lapikov, Nikolai Sergeyev, Nikolai Burlyayev and Tarkovsky's wife Irma Raush. Savva Yamshchikov, a famous Russian restorer and art historian, was a scientific consultant of the film.
Andrei Rublev is set against the background of 15th century Russia. Although the film is only loosely based on the life of Andrei Rublev, it seeks to depict a realistic portrait of medieval Russia. Tarkovsky sought to create a film that shows the artist as "a world-historic figure" and "Christianity as an axiom of Russia’s historical identity" during a turbulent period of Russian history that ultimately resulted in the Tsardom of Russia. The film is about the essence of art and the importance of faith and shows an artist who tries to find the appropriate response to the tragedies of his time. The film is also about artistic freedom and the possibility and necessity of making art for, and in the face of, a repressive authority and its hypocrisy, technology and empiricism, by which knowledge is acquired on one's own without reliance on authority, and the role of the individual, community, and government in the making of both spiritual and epic art.
Because of the film's religious themes and political ambiguity, it was not released domestically in the officially atheist and authoritarian Soviet Union for years after it was completed, except for a single screening in Moscow in 1966. A version of the film was shown at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the FIPRESCI prize. In 1971, a censored version of the film was released in the Soviet Union. The film was further cut for commercial reasons upon its U.S. release through Columbia Pictures in 1973. As a result, several versions of the film exist.
- Note: The following synopsis refers to the original, 205 minute version of the film.
Andrei Rublev is divided into seven chapters and a prologue and an epilogue only loosely related to the main film. The main film charts the life of the great icon painter through several episodes of his life. The background is 15th century Russia, a turbulent period characterized by fighting between rival princes and the Tatar invasions.
The film's prologue shows the preparations for a hot air balloon ride. The balloon takes off from the roof of a church, with a man named Yefim (Nikolay Glazkov) roped beneath the balloon, at the very moment of arrival of an ignorant mob trying to thwart the flight. The man is delighted by the sight from the air, but can not prevent a crash landing. Yefim is the first of several creative characters, representing the daring escapist, whose hopes are easily crushed. After the crash, a horse is seen lolling by a pond, a symbol of life — one of many horses in the movie.
The Jester, Summer 1400: Andrei (Anatoly Solonitsyn), Danil (Nikolai Grinko) and Kirill (Ivan Lapikov) are wandering monks, looking for work. The three represent different creative characters. Andrei is the observer, a humanistic artist who searches for the good in people and wants to inspire and not frighten. Danil is withdrawn and resigned, and not as bent on creativity as on self-realization. Kirill lacks talent, yet strives to achieve prominence. He is jealous, self-righteous, very intelligent and perceptive. The three have just left the Andronikov Monastery, where they have lived many years, heading to Moscow. During a heavy rain they seek shelter in a barn, where a group of villagers is being entertained by a jester (Rolan Bykov). The jester, or skomorokh, is a bitterly sarcastic enemy of the state and the Church, who is earning a living with his scathing and obscene social commentary and by making fun of the Boyars. He ridicules the monks as they come in, and after some time Kirill leaves unnoticed. Shortly, the skomorokh is picked up by a group of soldiers, knocked out headfirst against a tree and taken away.
Theophanes the Greek, Summer-Winter-Spring-Summer 1405–1406: Kirill arrives at the Theophanes the Greek's workshop, where Theophanes the Greek (Nikolai Sergeyev), a prominent and well-recognized master, is working on another of his icons. Theophanes the Greek is portrayed as a complex character: an established artist, humanistic and God-fearing in his views yet somewhat cynical, regarding his art more as a craft and a chore in his disillusion with other people. His young apprentices have all run away to the town square, where a convicted criminal is about to be tortured and executed in public. Kirill talks to Theophanes, and the artist, impressed by his erudition, invites him to work as an apprentice on the decoration of Cathedral of the Annunciation in Moscow. Kirill refuses at first, but then accepts the offer on the only condition that Theophanes will personally come to the Andronikov Monastery and invite Kirill to work with him in view of all the fraternity and Andrei Rublev.
The three monks are back at the Andronikov Monastery. Theophanes the Greek sends a messenger to Andrei to ask him for his assistance in decorating Cathedral of the Annunciation. Both Danil and Kirill are agitated by the recognition Andrei experiences. Danil refuses to accompany Andrei and reproaches him for accepting Theophanes's offer without considering his fellows, but soon repents of his temper and wishes Andrei well. Kirill is jealous and in great anger, and he leaves the monastery for the secular world, throwing the accusations of greed in the face of the monks. Andrei leaves for Moscow with his young apprentice Foma (Mikhail Kononov). Foma is another creative character, representing the light-hearted and practical-minded commercial artist. Still he seems to be contemplative enough to get along with Andrei.
The Passion According to Andrei, 1406: While walking in the woods, Andrei and Foma have a conversation about Foma's faults, especially lying. While Foma has talent as an artist, he is less concerned with the deeper meaning of his work and more concerned with practical aspects of the job, like perfecting his azure, a colour which in painting was often considered unstable to mix. They encounter Theophanes in the forest, and the old master sends Foma away. As he leaves, the apprentice finds a dead bird and pokes it. We cut to a conversation between Andrei and Theophanes, this time set on a stream bank. Theophanes argues that the ignorance of the Russian people is due to stupidity, while Andrei says that he doesn't understand how he can be a painter and maintain such views. "I'd have taken vows of schema long ago and settled down in a cave for good." This section contains a reenactment of Christ's Crucifixion, which plays as Andrei recounts the story and expresses his faith.
The Feast, 1408: During a nightly walk Andrei encounters a group of naked pagans, whose celebration implies sensuality and lust. Andrei feels attracted by the rituals he witnesses. He is caught by the pagans and tied to a cross, and threatened to be drowned in the morning. A woman named Marfa (Nelly Snegina), only dressed with a mantle approaches Andrei. She drops her mantle, kisses and then frees him. The next morning as Andrei leaves a group of soldiers arrives and rounds up the pagans. Marfa escapes by running into the river and swimming past Andrei’s boat. He and his fellow monks look away in shame.
The Last Judgment, Summer 1408: Andrei and Danil are working on the decoration of a church in Vladimir. Over months, work is not progressing, as Andrei is doubting himself. He confides to Danil that his task disgusts him and that he is unable to paint a subject such as the Last Judgement, as he doesn’t want to terrify people. He comes to the conclusion that he has lost the ease of mind that an artist needs for his work. Foma, impatient and ambitious, quits to collect on an offer to paint a church of his own. Stone carvers working on the church are offered work on the Grand Prince's mansion. On the path to the new job, the Grand Prince's jealous brother sends soldiers to accost the artisans and gouge their eyes out, so that they cannot replicate their work. Back in the church Durochka (Irma Raush), a holy fool or Yurodivy, wanders inside. Her feeble-mindedness and innocence leads Andrei to the idea to paint a feast.
The Raid, Autumn 1408: While the Grand Prince is away in Lithuania, the Grand Prince’s brother and a group of Tatars raid Vladimir. The invasion and the resulting carnage is shown in great detail. One famous scene shows a horse falling from a flight of stairs and being stabbed by a spear. Another famous scene shows a cow set on fire. The tatars enter the church. Andrei prevents the rape of Durochka by a Russian by slaying the perpetrator. Shaken by this event Andrei falls into self-doubt and decides to give up painting and takes a vow of silence.
The Silence, Winter 1412: Andrei is once again at the Andronikov Monastery. He neither paints nor speaks and keeps Durochka with him. After several years of absence, Kirill shows up at the monastery and asks to be taken in. The father superior allows him to return, but requires him to copy the scriptures fifteen times. One day, Tatars stop at the monastery while traveling through. One of the Tatars takes Durochka away as his eighth wife.
The Bell, Spring-Summer-Winter-Spring 1423–1424: Andrei's life turns around when he witnesses the casting of a bell for the Grand Prince. As the bellmaker has died, his son Boriska (Nikolai Burlyayev) tells the Prince's men that he is the only one who possesses his father's secret of casting a bell. Boriska is another creative character. He is aware of his own importance and the difficult task at hand. He is able to create through a combination of natural skill and pure faith. Boriska supervises the digging of the pit, the selection of the clay, the building of the mold, the firing of the furnaces and the hoisting of the bell. During the process the bell-making endeavor grows into a large, costly effort with many workers and Boriska makes several risky decisions, guided by his instinct. At one point, he privately asks God for help. Also, Boriska notices the silent Andrei watching him several times.
Halfway through the sequence, the skomorokh from the first sequence makes a reappearance and threatens to kill Andrei, whom he mistakes for the man who denounced him years earlier and led to his arrest and prison sentence. Kirill steps in and intervenes on behalf of the silent Andrei. Later Kirill confesses privately to Andrei that his sinful envy of Andrei's talent dissipated once he heard Andrei had abandoned painting and that it was he (Kirill) who denounced the skomorokh. Kirill then takes Andrei to task for allowing his God-given talent for painting to go fallow and pleads with him to resume his artistry, to no response.
As the bell-making proceeds toward its end Boriska's decisive confidence slowly transforms into a stunned, detached disbelief that he's succeeded at the task. The work crew takes over as Boriska makes repeated, nervous attempts to fade into the background of the activity. Once the bell has been hoisted into its bell tower the Grand Prince and his entourage arrive for the inaugural ceremony. As the bell is prepared to be rung the royal entourage is overhead discussing its doubts that the bell will ring. It's revealed that Boriska and the work crew know if the bell fails to ring the Grand Prince will have them all beheaded. (It is also overheard that the Grand Prince had his brother, who raided Vladimir in The Raid sequence, beheaded.) There is a quiet, agonizing tension as the foreman slowly coaxes the bell's clapper back and forth, nudging it closer to the lip of the bell with each swing. A pan across the assembly reveals white-robed Durochka, leading a horse (preceded by a boy, presumably her son) as she walks through the crowd. At the critical moment the bell rings perfectly and she smiles. After the ceremony, Andrei finds Boriska collapsed on the ground, sobbing as he admits his father never told him the secret of casting a bell. Andrei comforts him, breaking his vow of silence and telling the boy that they should go together: "You’ll cast bells. I’ll paint icons". Andrei sees Durochka, the boy, and the horse walk off across a muddy field in the distance.
The epilogue is the only part of the film in color and shows details of several of Andrei Rublev's icons. The icons are shown in the following order: Enthroned Christ, Twelve Apostles, The Annunciation, Twelve Apostles, Jesus entering Jerusalem, Birth of Christ, Enthroned Christ, Transfiguration of Jesus, Resurrection of Lazarus, The Annunciation, Resurrection of Lazarus, Birth of Christ, Trinity, Archangel Michael, Paul the Apostle, The Redeemer. The final scene crossfades from the icons and shows four horses at a river during rain.
In 1961, while working on his first feature film Ivan's Childhood, Tarkovsky made a proposal to Mosfilm for a film on the life of Russia's greatest icon painter, Andrei Rublev. The contract was signed in 1962 and the first treatment was approved in December 1963. Tarkovsky and his co-screenwriter Andrei Konchalovsky worked for more than two years on the script, studying medieval writings and chronicles and books on medieval history and art. In April 1964 the script was approved and Tarkovsky began working on the film. At the same time the script was published in the influential film magazine Iskusstvo Kino, and was widely discussed among historians, film critics and ordinary readers. The discussion on Andrei Rublev centered on the sociopolitical and historical, and not the artistic aspects of the film.
According to Tarkovsky, the original idea for a film about the life of Andrei Rublev was due to the film actor Vasily Livanov. Livanov proposed to write a screenplay together to Tarkovsky and Konchalovsky while they were strolling through a forest on the outskirts of Moscow. He also mentioned that he would love to play Andrei Rublev. Tarkovsky did not intend the film to be a historical or a biographical film about Andrei Rublev. Instead, he was motivated by the idea of showing the connection between a creative character's personality and the times through which he lives. He wanted to show an artist's maturing and the development of his talent. He chose Andrei Rublev for his importance in the history of Russian culture.
Tarkovsky cast Anatoli Solonitsyn for the role of Andrei Rublev. At this time Solonitsyn was an unknown actor at a theater in Sverdlovsk. According to Tarkovsky everybody had a different image of the historical figure of Andrei Rublev, thus casting an unknown actor who would not remind viewers of other roles was his favoured approach. Solonitsyn, who had read the film script in the film magazine Iskusstvo Kino, was very enthusiastic about the role, traveled to Moscow at his own expense to meet Tarkovsky and even declared that no one could play this role better than him. Tarkovsky felt the same, saying that "with Solonitsyn I simply got lucky". For the role of Andrei Rublev he required "a face with great expressive power in which one could see a demoniacal single-mindedness". To Tarkovsky, Solonitsyn provided the right physical appearance and the talent of showing complex psychological processes.
(Solonitsyn would continue to work with the director, appearing in Solaris, The Mirror, and Stalker, and in the title role of Tarkovsky's 1976 stage production of Hamlet in Moscow's Lenkom Theatre. Before his death from cancer in 1982, Solonitsyn was also intended to play protagonist Andrei Gortchakov in Tarkovsky's 1983 Italian-Russian co-production Nostalghia, and to star in a project titled The Witch which Tarkovsky would significantly alter into his final production, The Sacrifice.)
Tarkovsky chose to shoot the main film in black and white and the epilogue, showing some of Andrei Rublev's icons, in color. In an interview he motivated his choice with the claim that in everyday life one does not consciously notice colors. Consequently Rublev's life is in black and white, whereas his art is in color. The film was thus able express the co-dependence of an artist's art and his personal life. The color sequence of Rublev's icons begins with showing only selected details, climaxing in Rublev's most famous icon, The Trinity. One reason for including this color final was, according to Tarkovsky, to give the viewer some rest and to allow him to detach himself from Rublev's life and to reflect. The film finally ends with the image of horses at river in the rain. To Tarkovsky horses symbolized life, and including horses in the final scene (and in many other scenes in the film) meant that life was the source of all of Rublev's art.
Filming did not begin until April 1965, one year after approval of the script. The initial budget was 1.6 million Rubles, but it was cut several times to one million Rubles (In comparison, Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace had a budget of eight and half million Rubles). As a result of the budget restrictions several scenes from the script were cut, including an opening scene showing the Battle of Kulikovo. Other scenes that were cut from the script are a hunting scene, where the younger brother of the Grand Prince hunts swans, and a scene showing peasants helping Durochka giving birth to her Russian-Tatar child. In the end the film cost 1.3 million Rubles, with the cost overrun due to heavy snowfall, which disrupted shooting from November 1965 until April 1966. The film was shot on location, on the Nerl River and the historical places of Vladimir/Suzdal, Pskov, Izborsk and Pechory.
Several scenes within the film depict violence, torture and cruelty toward animals, leading to controversy and censorship attempts upon completion of the film. Most of these scenes took place during the raid of Vladimir, showing for example the blinding and the torture of a monk. Most of the scenes involving cruelty toward animals were simulated. For example, during the Tatar raid of Vladimir a cow is set on fire. In reality the cow had an asbestos-covered coat and was not physically harmed; however, one scene depicts the real death of a horse. The horse falls from a flight of stairs and is then stabbed by a spear. To produce this image, Tarkovsky injured the horse by shooting it in the neck and then pushed it from the stairs, causing the animal to falter and fall down the flight of stairs. From there, the camera pans off the horse onto some soldiers to the left and then pans back right onto the horse, and we see the horse struggling to get its footing having fallen over on its back before being stabbed by the spear. The animal was then shot in the head afterward off camera. This was done to avoid the possibility of harming what was considered a lesser expendable, highly prized stunt horse. The horse was brought in from a slaughterhouse, killed on set, and then returned to the abattoir for commercial consumption. In a 1967 interview for Literaturnoe obozrenie, interviewer Aleksandr Lipkov suggested to Tarkovsky that "the cruelty in the film is shown precisely to shock and stun the viewers. And this may even repel them." In an attempt to downplay the cruelty Tarkovsky responded: "No, I don't agree. This does not hinder viewer perception. Moreover we did all this quite sensitively. I can name films that show much more cruel things, compared to which ours looks quite modest."
The first cut of the film was completed in July 1966 and was named The Passion According to Andrei and ran 205 minutes. Goskino demanded cuts to the film, citing its length, negativity, violence, and nudity. After Tarkovsky completed this first version, it would be five years before the film was officially released in the Soviet Union.
The ministry's demands for cuts first resulted in a 190-minute version. Despite Tarkovsky's objections expressed in a letter to Alexey Romanov, the chairman of Goskino, the ministry demanded further cuts, and Tarkovsky trimmed the length to 186 minutes. The film premiered with a single screening at the Dom Kino in Moscow in 1966 for film professionals. Audience reaction was enthusiastic, despite some criticism of the film's naturalistic depiction of violence. In February 1967, Tarkovsky and Alexei Romanov complained that the film was not yet approved for an official release and refused to cut further scenes from the film. Tarkovsky's refusal resulted in Andrei Rublev not being released for years, despite being a topic of discussion at the top level of Mosfilm, Goskino and even during a meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
Andrei Rublev was invited to the Cannes Film Festival in 1967 as part of a planned retrospective of Soviet film on occasion of the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. The official answer was that the film was not yet completed and could not be shown at the film festival. A second invitation was made by the organizers of the Cannes Film Festival in 1969. Soviet officials accepted this invitation, but they only allowed the film to screen at the festival out of competition, and it was screened just once at 4 A.M. on the final day of the festival. Audience response nevertheless was enthusiastic, and the film won the FIPRESCI prize. Soviet officials tried to prevent the official release of the film in France and other countries, but were not successful as the French distributor had legally acquired the rights in 1969.
In the Soviet Union, influential admirers of Tarkovsky's work—including the film director Grigori Kozintsev, the composer Dmitri Shostakovich and Yevgeny Surkov, the editor of Iskusstvo Kino—began pressuring for the release of Andrei Rublev. Tarkovsky and his second wife, Larisa Tarkovskaya wrote letters to other influential personalities in support of the film's release, and Larisa Tarkovskaya even went with the film to Alexei Kosygin, then the Premier of the Soviet Union.
Despite Tarkovsky's refusal to make further cuts, Andrei Rublev finally was released on December 24, 1971 in the 186-minute 1966 version. The film was released in 277 prints and sold 2.98 million tickets. When the film was released, Tarkovsky complained in his diary that in the entire city not a single poster for the film could be seen but that all theaters were sold out.
Despite the cuts having originated with Goskino's demands, Tarkovsky ultimately endorsed the 186-minute cut the film over the original 205-minute version:
Nobody has ever cut anything from Andrei Rublev. Nobody except me. I made some cuts myself. In the first version the film was 3 hours 20 minutes long. In the second — 3 hours 15 minutes. I shortened the final version to 3 hours 6 minutes. I am convinced the latest version is the best, the most successful. And I only cut certain overly long scenes. The viewer doesn't even notice their absence. The cuts have in no way changed neither the subject matter nor what was for us important in the film. In other words, we removed overly long scenes which had no significance.
We shortened certain scenes of brutality in order to induce psychological shock in viewers, as opposed to a mere unpleasant impression which would only destroy our intent. All my friends and colleagues who during long discussions were advising me to make those cuts turned out right in the end. It took me some time to understand it. At first I got the impression they were attempting to pressure my creative individuality. Later I understood that this final version of the film more than fulfils my requirements for it. And I do not regret at all that the film has been shortened to its present length.
In 1973, the film was shown on Soviet television in a 101-minute version that Tarkovsky did not authorize. Notable scenes that were cut from this version were the raid of the Tartars and the scene showing naked pagans. The epilogue showing details of Andrei Rublev's icons was in black and white as the Soviet Union had not yet fully transitioned to color TV. In 1987, when Andrei Rublev was once again shown on Soviet TV, the epilogue was once again in black and white, despite the Soviet Union having completely transitioned to color TV. Another difference from the original version of the film was the inclusion of a short explanatory note at the beginning of the film, detailing the life of Andrei Rublev and the historical background. When the film was released in the U.S. and other countries in 1973, the distributor Columbia Pictures cut it by an additional 20 minutes, making the film an incoherent mess in the eyes of many critics and leading to unfavorable reviews.
In the mid-1990s, Criterion Collection released the original, 205-minute version of Andrei Rublev on laserdisc, which Criterion re-issued on DVD in 1999. (Criterion advertises this version as the "director's cut," despite Tarkovsky's stated preference for the 186-minute version.) According to Tarkovsky's sister, Marina Tarkovskaya, one of the editors of the film, Lyudmila Feiginova, secretly kept a print of the 205-minute cut under her bed. Criterion's producer from the project stated that the video transfer was sourced from a film print that filmmaker Martin Scorsese had acquired while visiting Russia.
Andrei Rublev won several awards. In 1969, the film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. Due to pressure by Soviet officials, the film could only be shown out of competition, and was thus not eligible for the Palme d'Or or the Grand Prix. Nevertheless, it won the prize of the international film critics, FIPRESCI. In 1971 Andrei Rublev won the Critics Award of the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics, and in 1973 the Jussi Award for best foreign film.
In 2010 the film was honoured when it came equal second in a U.K. newspaper series of the "Greatest Films of All Time" as voted by critics from The Guardian and The Observer'.'
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- Voted #8 on The Arts and Faith Top 100 Films (2010)