Andrei Rublev (film)
Original theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Andrei Tarkovsky|
|Produced by||Tamara Ogorodnikova[A]|
|Music by||Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures (US)|
|Budget||1.3 million rubles|
Andrei Rublev (Russian: Андрей Рублёв) is a 1966 Soviet biographical historical drama film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky and co-written with Andrei Konchalovsky. The film is loosely based on the life of Andrei Rublev, the 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's themes include artistic freedom, religion, political ambiguity, autodidacticism, and the making of art under a repressive regime. Because of this, it was not released domestically in the officially atheist Soviet Union for years after it was completed, except for a single 1966 screening in Moscow. 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.
Although these issues with censorship obscured and truncated the film for many years following its release, the film was soon recognized by many western critics and film directors as a highly original and accomplished work. Even more since being restored to its original version, Andrei Rublev has come to be regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, and has often been ranked highly in both the Sight & Sound critics' and directors' polls.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Release and Censorship
- 5 Reception
- 6 Legacy
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
- Note: The following synopsis refers to the original, 3 hour 25 minute version of the film.
Andrei Rublev is divided into seven episodes, with a prologue and an epilogue only loosely related to the main film. The main film charts the life of the great icon painter through seven episodes which either parallel his life or represent episodic transitions in 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 is tethered to the spire of a church next to a river, with a man named Yefim (Nikolay Glazkov) attempting to make the flight by use of a harness roped beneath the balloon. At the very moment of his attempt an ignorant mob arrive from the river and attempt to thwart the flight, putting a firebrand into the face of one of the men on the ground assisting Yefim. In spite of this the balloon is successfully released and Yefim is overwhelmed and delighted by the view from above and the sensation of flying, but he can not prevent a crash landing shortly after. He is the first of several creative characters, representing the daring escapist, whose hopes are easily crushed. After the crash, a horse is seen rolling on its back by a pond, a symbol of life–one of many horses in the movie.
I. The Jester (Summer 1400)
Andrei (Anatoly Solonitsyn), Daniil (Nikolai Grinko) and Kirill (Ivan Lapikov) are wandering monks and religious icon painters, looking for work. The three represent different creative characters. Andrei is the observer, a humanist who searches for the good in people and wants to inspire and not frighten. Daniil is withdrawn and resigned, and not as bent on creativity as on self-realization. Kirill lacks talent as a painter, yet still 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 for many years, heading to Moscow. During a heavy rain shower 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 earns 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, a group of soldiers arrive to arrest the skomorokh, whom they take outside, knock unconscious and take away, also smashing his musical instrument. As the rain has stopped the three monks thank the villagers for allowing them to shelter and continue on their way. As they walk on the heavy rain starts again.
II. Theophanes the Greek (Summer–Winter–Spring–Summer 1405–1406)
Kirill arrives at the workshop of Theophanes the Greek (Nikolai Sergeyev), a prominent and well-recognized master painter, who is working on a new icon of Jesus Christ. Theophanes 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 wrongly convicted criminal is about to be tortured and executed. Kirill talks to Theophanes, and the artist, impressed by the monk's understanding and erudition, invites him to work as his apprentice on the decoration of the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Moscow. Kirill refuses at first, but then accepts the offer on the condition that Theophanes will personally come to the Andronikov Monastery and invite Kirill to work with him in front of all the fraternity and Andrei Rublev, who according to Theophanes' comments has some fame as an icon painter in the outside world.
A short while later at the Andronikov Monastery, a messenger arrives from Moscow to ask Andrei for his assistance in decorating the Annunciation Cathedral with Theophanes the Greek. Both Daniil and Kirill are agitated by the recognition that Andrei receives. Daniil refuses to accompany Andrei and reproaches him for accepting Theophanes’ offer without considering his fellows, but soon repents of his temper and tearfully wishes Andrei well when the younger monk comes to say goodbye to his friend. Kirill is jealous of Andrei and in a fit of anger, decides to leave the monastery for the secular world, throwing accusations of greed in the face of his fellow monks, who also dismiss him. Kirill stumbles out of the monastery into the snowy countryside and is pursued by his dog, but Kirill savagely beats it with his walking stick and leaves it for dead. Andrei leaves for Moscow with his young apprentice Foma (Mikhail Kononov).
While walking in the woods, Andrei and Foma have a conversation about Foma’s faults, especially lying. Foma confesses to taking honey from the bee garden, after Andrei notices his cassock is sticky, and smears mud on his face to soothe a bee sting. 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 swan and pokes at it with a stick. We cut to banks of a stream where Andrei and Theophanes are arguing about religion, while Foma cleans his master's paint brushes. 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. This section contains a Passion Play, or a reenactment of Christ's Crucifixion, on a snow-covered hillside which plays out as Andrei recounts the story and expresses his belief that the men who crucified Jesus were obeying God's will and loved him.
III. The Holiday (1408)
Camping for the night on a riverbank, Andrei and Foma are collecting firewood for their group when Andrei hears the distant sounds of celebration further upstream in the woods. Going to investigate he encounters a large group of naked pagans, who are conducting a torch lit ritual for Midsummer. Andrei is intrigued and excited by the behaviour of the pagans but is caught spying on a couple making love, is tied to the crossbeam of a hut in a mockery of Jesus' crucifixion and is threatened with drowning in the morning. A woman named Marfa (Nelly Snegina), dressed only in a fur coat approaches Andrei. After explaining that her people are persecuted for their beliefs she drops her coat, kisses Andrei and then unties him. Andrei runs away, and is lost in the dense woods, scratching his face. The next morning Andrei returns to his group, including Daniil, and as they leave on their boats a group of soldiers appear on the riverbank chasing after several of the pagans including Marfa. Her partner is captured but she makes her naked escape by swimming into the river past Andrei’s boat. He and his fellow monks look away in shame.
IV. The Last Judgment (Summer 1408)
Andrei and Daniil are working on the decoration of a church in Vladimir. Although they have been there for several months the walls are still white and bare as Andrei is doubting himself. A messenger arrives with word from the furious Bishop to say they have until the Autumn to finish the job. On a nearby road in the middle of a field of flowers Andrei confides to Daniil that the 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 into submission. He comes to the conclusion that he has lost the ease of mind that an artist needs for his work. Foma, impatient and ambitious, resigns and leaves Andrei's group to take up the offer of painting a smaller, less prestigious church. Stone carvers and decorators of Andrei's party have also been working on the Grand Prince's mansion. The Prince wants the work to be done again more in line with his tastes but the workers already have another job, at the mansion of the Grand Prince's brother, and refuse. On a path through the woods soldiers accost the artisans on the orders of the Grand Prince and gouge their eyes out, so that they cannot replicate their work. Back at the church Andrei is dismayed by the news of their fate and angrily throws paint and smears it on one of the walls. Sergei (Vladimir Titov) one of the young apprentices who escaped the attack unharmed reads a random section of the bible aloud, at Daniil's request, concerning women. Durochka (Irma Raush) (whose name identifies her as a holy fool or Yurodivy), wanders in out of the rain and is upset by the sight of the paint on the wall. Her feeble-mindedness and innocence leads Andrei to the idea to paint a feast.
V. The Raid (Autumn 1408)
While the Grand Prince is away in Lithuania, his power-hungry younger brother forms an allegiance with a group of Tatars and raids Vladimir. We see flashbacks of the Grand Prince and his brother attending a religious service in the church, and see the rivalry and animosity between them. The invasion of the combined armed forces on horseback and the resulting carnage is shown in great detail. The city is burned, the citizens are murdered and women raped and killed. One scene shows a horse falling from a flight of stairs and being stabbed by a spear. Another shows a cow being set on fire. Foma narrowly escapes being killed in the city and escapes into the nearby countryside, but as he is crossing a river he is shot in the back with an arrow and killed. The Tatars force their way into the barricaded church, now fully decorated with Andrei's paintings, where the majority of the citizens have taken refuge. The Tatars show no mercy and massacre the people inside and burn all the painted wooden altarpieces. Andrei saves Durochka from being raped by killing a Russian soldier with an axe. The Bishop's messenger is cruelly tortured to make him reveal the location of the city's gold, which he refuses to do. After being repeatedly burned, he has liquid metal from a melted crucifix poured into his mouth and is dragged away tied to a horse. In the aftermath only Andrei and Durochka are left alive in the church. Andrei imagines a conversation with the dead Theophanes the Greek, lamenting the loss of his work and the evil of mankind, while Durochka distractedly plaits the hair of a dead woman. Andrei decides to give up painting and takes a vow of silence to atone for killing another man.
VI. The Charity (Winter 1412)
- Note: In the 185 minute version this episode is titled Silence
Andrei is once again at the Andronikov Monastery as famine and war grip the country. He no longer paints and never speaks, and keeps Durochka with him as a fellow companion in silence. Several refugees discuss the problems in their respective home towns, and one man talks in a broken voice of his escape from Vladimir. He is recognised by a younger monk as the long absent Kirill. He has suffered during his time away from the monastery and begs the father superior to allow him to return. His wish is granted but he is instructed to copy out the holy scriptures fifteen times in penance. A group of Tatars stops at the monastery while travelling through the region, much to the concern of Andrei and Kirill who experienced their brutality first hand. Durochka is too simple minded to remember what the Tatars did and is fascinated by one of the soldier's shining breastplate. The group taunt and play with her, but the soldier takes a liking to her, putting his horned helmet on her head and dressing her as a bride, finally deciding to take her away with him as his eighth, and only Russian, wife. Andrei attempts to stop her from leaving, but she is determined and rides away with the Tatars. Kirill talks to Andrei for the first time since they both left the monastery, and he assures him that Durochka won't be in any danger, as harming a holy fool is considered bad luck, and she will be let go. Andrei continues his menial work of carrying large hot stones from a fire with tongs to heat water for the monastery, but drops the stone in the snow.
VII. The Bell (Spring–Summer–Winter–Spring 1423–1424)
Andrei’s life turns around as he witnesses the casting of a bell for the Grand Prince. Boriska (Nikolai Burlyayev) is the young son of a bellmaker; all his family have died of a plague that has ravaged the area. He tells the Prince's men that he is the only one who possesses his father's secret, delivered at the death bed, of casting a bronze bell and persuades them to take him with them as he is the only person left alive who can make it successfully. Boriska is put in charge of the project and frequently contradicts and challenges the instincts of his co-workers when choosing the location of the pit, the selection of the proper clay, the building of the mold, the firing of the furnaces and finally the hoisting of the bell. Even Boriska expresses doubts that he will succeed in making the bell ring. The process of making the bell grows into a huge, expensive endeavour with many hundreds of workers and Boriska makes several risky decisions, guided only by his instincts. As the furnaces are opened and the molten metal pours into the mould, he privately asks God for help. Andrei silently watches Boriska during the casting, and the younger man notices him too.
During the bell-making, the skomorokh from the first sequence makes a reappearance amongst the crowds who have come to watch the bell being raised up and he threatens to kill Andrei, whom he mistakes for the man who denounced him years earlier and therefore led to his arrest, torture and prison sentence. Kirill intervenes on behalf of the silent Andrei and later privately confesses that his sinful envy of Andrei’s talent dissipated once he heard Andrei had abandoned painting and that it was he, Kirill, who had denounced the skomorokh. Kirill then criticises Andrei for allowing his God-given talent for painting to go to waste and pleads with him to resume his artistry, to no response.
As the bell-making nears completion, Boriska’s confidence slowly transforms into a stunned, detached disbelief that he’s succeeded at the task. The work crew takes over as Boriska makes several attempts to fade into the background of the activity. Once the bell has been hoisted into its tower the Grand Prince and his entourage arrive for the inaugural ceremony as the bell is blessed by the priests. As the bell is prepared to be rung the royal entourage is overhead discussing their doubts that it will. It is 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 child, presumably hers) 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. 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 carry on their work 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 colour and shows time-aged, but still vibrant, details of several of Andrei Rublev’s actual 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 standing by a river in the rain.
- Anatoly Solonitsyn – Andrei Rublev
- Nikolai Grinko – Daniil Chorny
- Nikolai Sergeyev – Theophanes the Greek
- Nikolai Burlyayev – Boriska
- Ivan Lapikov – Kirill
- Yuri Nikulin – Patrikei
- Yuriy Nazarov – Prince Yury of Zvenigorod/Grand Prince Vasily I of Moscow
- Rolan Bykov – the Skomorokh
- Irma Raush – Durochka (the holy fool girl)
- Mikhail Kononov – Foma
- Nelly Snegina - Marfa
- Nikolay Glazkov – Yefim
- Bolot Beyshenaliyev – Edigu, Khan of the Nogai Horde
- Irina Miroshnichenko – Mary Magdalene
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 with 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.
According to Johnson, filming did not begin until April 1965, one year after approval of the script, with J. Hoberman reporting a slightly earlier date of September 1964 for the start of filming in his film essay for the Criterion collection release of the film. 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.
Tarkovsky chose to shoot the main film in black and white and the epilogue, showing some of 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 to express the co-dependence of an artist's art and his personal life. In a 1969 interview, Tarkovsky stated that the flying man in the prologue is "the symbol of daring, in the sense that creation requires from man the complete offering of his being. Whether one wishes to fly before it has become possible, or cast a bell without having learned how to do it, or paint an icon – all these acts demand that, for the price of his creation, man should die, dissolve himself in his work, give himself entirely."
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.
The first cut of the film was known as The Passion According to Andrei (Russian: Страсти по Андрею, Strasty po Andryeyo), though this title was not used for the released version of the film. The first cut of the film was over 3 hours and 15 minutes in length prior to being edited down to its released length. The first cut was completed in July 1966. 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 widely 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.
Robert Bird in his analysis of the comparison of the first cut of the film to the final Tarkovsky cut of the edited film summarized the editing process stating:
"The most conspicuous cuts were the most graphic shots of the stonemasons' gouged-out eyes, the burning cow, and the horse being lanced (although its horrific fall remained). Four embedded scenes of flashbacks or fantasies were also cut completely: Foma's fantasy of flight in episode two, Andrei's reminiscence of the three monks under a rain-soaked oak tree in episode four, the younger prince's fantasy of humiliating the Grand Prince in episode five, and Boriska's recollection of the bellfounding in episode seven. All in all, I have counted thirty-six shots which were completely deleted in the 185-minute version of Andrei Rublev, and about eighty-five which were considerably abbreviated, including nine very long takes which are split each into two or more parts. The total number of shots went from 403 to 390, with the average shot length dropping from 31" to 28". The only sequence which remained inviolable was the Epilogue in colour."
Depictions of violence
Several scenes within the film depict violence, torture and cruelty toward animals, which sparked controversy at the time of release. Most of these scenes took place during the raid of Vladimir, including one showing the blinding and the torture of a monk. The scenes involving cruelty toward animals were largely 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 less 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."
Release and Censorship
The film premiered with a single screening at the Dom Kino in Moscow in 1966. Audience reaction was enthusiastic, despite some criticism of the film's naturalistic depiction of violence. But the film failed to win approval for release from Soviet censors; the Central Committee of the Communist Party wrote in its review that "the film's ideological erroneousness is not open to doubt." Andrei Rublev was accused of being "anti-historical" in its failure to portray the context of its hero's life: the rapid development of large cities and the struggle against the Mongols. In February 1967, Tarkovsky and Alexei Romanov complained that the film was not yet approved for a wide release but refused to cut further scenes from the film.
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 remarked 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.
Tarkovsky final cut
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.
Scorsese use of the first-cut version
In the mid-1990s, Criterion Collection released the first-cut 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 of the project stated that the video transfer was sourced from a film print that filmmaker Martin Scorsese had acquired while visiting Russia. In 2016, a Blu-Ray version of the film was released in the United Kingdom using the 186-minute version preferred by Tarkovsky. In June 2018, Criterion announced that it would release both the first and final cut of the film on DVD and Blu-ray in September 2018.
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.
J. Hoberman, a film critic for The Village Voice, summarized the early reception of the film in the film notes included in the Criterion dvd release of the film stating: "Two years later (in 1973), Rublev surface at the New York Film Festival, cut another 20 minutes by its American distributor, Columbia Pictures. TIME (magazine) compared the movie unfavorably to Dr. Zhivago; those other New York reviewers who took note begged off explication, citing Rublev's apparent truncation."
The film is referenced in Tarkovsky's two films that followed this one. It is first referenced in Solaris, made in 1972, by having an icon by Andrei Rublev being placed in the main character's room. It is next referenced by having a poster of the film being hung on a wall in The Mirror, made in 1975.
In 2010, Andrei Rublev was honored 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.
- A In the Soviet Union the role of a producer was different from that in Western countries and more similar to the role of a line producer or a unit production manager.
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