Thoughts On: Andrei Rublev - To Rise, To Fall; To Raise The Fool


Andrei Rublev - To Rise, To Fall; To Raise The Fool

Quick Thoughts: Andrei Rublev (Андрей Рублёв, 1966)

An episodic venture through the life of a 15th century Russian painter.

Andrei Rublev stands out from Tarkovsky's filmography as his most theological narrative, and as a result, it lacks the existential Tarkovsky-time mastered in Stalker, and it also lacks a biographical poetry mastered in Mirror, but is nonetheless an astoundingly rich film, so dense with awe that one is easily brought to the brink of tears. As epic as I have ever witness Tarkovsky become, Andrei Rublev is a film about the nature of sin. In turn, the story recounted shows how man tries to rise above what is sinful, to furthermore rise above his nature, be it pure or corrupt in its unconsciousness, in an effort to reach God; and yet he falls, and yet there is beauty - and there is beauty because there is always chance and the fool's potential. To see such meaning mapped onto the narrative, one only needs to focus on the opening. (I apologise for the bad quality, but here is the scene...)

This fascinating opening has 5 major elements to it: the balloon, mob, flight, horses and crash. These five elements encapsulate my introductory overview of the narrative meaning. The balloon then represents flight and an ascension towards God and the heavens. Such symbolism is made clear through the fact that the balloon is tied to the top of a church. However, for an unknown reason, a mob forms and attempts to prevent the flight with violence; this mob seems to represent inherent sin in humanity, its wrongdoing in the face of ascension. We may assume the mob represents this because of the inherently positive connotations of flight and ascending towards heaven. However, there is complication introduced through the imagery of the horses, who represent nature and, in turn, the unconscious human state. This baseline of nature is more foundation to this film than can be articulated, and its constant presence accrues a function similar to that felt in Au Hasard Balthazar; nature looks on at, and in turn reflects, humans who are trying to transcend their basic nature in their venture towards God. With this juxtaposition of animal and human, of basic nature and human nature (which is more complex), there emerges doubt: Should we attempt to ascend towards the firmament? Is our nature something we can, or even should, escape? This question, whilst it is not answered, is responded to with the crash. The crash sees the man who wanted to ascend to God fall; maybe, like Icarus, he flew too close to the sun with wings too fragile; maybe, unlike Dante, he did not walk through the inferno and know the many faces of sin before trying to make his ascent; maybe, like the people of earth who spoke one language and constructed the Tower of Babel to reach God, he was struck down for his folly and scattered across the earth so he may speak in different tongues. Alas, we are ultimately made to look back again and see the horse, see nature, and reflect upon why the mob formed; if they are sin, if they are tyranny or if they are knowledge.

The remainder of Andrei Rublev is, in essence, a collection of stories that repeat this paradigm of a failed flight over and over, expanding upon the abstract meaning given in the opening and providing a set of debates and even, in the end, some kind of moral resolution that contradicts the idea that the fall of humanity is inevitable. And thus we are made to see the fool archetype come to take central stage across this narrative, bringing with them the all-important theme of choice and potential in human nature. Such is a reflection of what I would term Tarkovsky's 'semiotic satiation' - alas, this can be discussed in a separate post. With this first look at the meaning of Andrei Rublev I'd like to keep the initial discussion direct and short so that, after I have seen the film a few times more, I can maybe make a more comprehensive return. However, have you seen Andrei Rublev? What are your thoughts on the film and everything we've covered today?

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