The birth of art and genius in Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublyov
Brant, Nataliya Borisovna
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There are few twentieth century films that have successfully inspired a complex combination of awe and controversy when socially and critically received. Among them are such canonical works as Goddard's Weekend, Fellini's Satyricon, Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, and Bergman's Persona. Yet there is no film that can rival the exhaustive intensity of Tarkovsky's simultaneously brutal and lyrical narrative, Andrei Rublyov. A cinematic behemoth whose production was banned for over two decades, Andrei Rublyov is more than a mere quasi~historical chronicle of the Mongol domination in medieval Russia or a foray into the absurdity of the human condition, but rather, it is a film that probes the depths of human suffering and transgression against a backdrop of cultural, historical and spiritual devastation as seen through the eyes of a genius holy man. Tarkovsky's acute attention to Rublyov's character development (a kind of cinematic bildungsroman), his obsession with historical detail, and his deft manipulation of the camera render an accurate but disturbing portrait of the religious and individual spirit of Russia. It is precisely this detailed analysis of the diagesis, characterization and cinematography of Tarkovsky's narrative that will enable my discussion of the genesis of Russian iconography, and more specifically, the origins of Russian culture and society. So, while Tarkovsky's film is seems an account of the trials and tribulations of a monk and his extraordinary talent, it is really the story of the rise of Russian iconography and its emergence from the ashes of Mongol domination. More than anything, Tarkovsky's film elucidates the importance passionate suffering, or passio in the classical sense, as a necessary catalyst for great artistic expression. Filtered through Rublyov's gaze, we watch not only the transformation and reconfiguration of an artist's life, but more importantly, we bear witness to the rise of the Russian art and culture that manifests itself in this renaissance of Russian iconography.