Friday, January 12, 2007

Andrei Rublev

I watched a remarkable movie the other night. Actually, correct that, I finished a remarkable movie the other night. The thing is 3 1/2 hours long and I've been watching it for months. But this time I turned it on at the half way point and couldn't stop until it was over. Even then I had to watch 45 minutes of special features before I could go to bed.

I'm not sure whether to recommend this film because, quite frankly, a lot of people might hate me for it. It isn't your usual film. The director himself hates usual film. Hollywood stuff. And yeah I guess there are movie snobs out there and this gets talked about all the time but let me rehash it again.

There are two kinds of movie out there. One is where the director shows you a story and basically tries to convey a feeling for you. In other words, you are shown not only what happens but how to look at what happens and so you have what is for the most part a pre-fabricated experience. You are willingly manipulated, you might say.

The other type of movie is where they try to tell you a story but they don't spell out for you how to feel about it, or even tell you what the story is. They just show you as much as they can, they try to do it beautifully, and they let you experience it for yourself. These are the films that leave you moved, leave you thinking, leave you wanting to talk to others about it and enhance the experience by sharing it with others and bouncing it around and seeing what just happened to you. This isn't the same as a thoughtless plot full of holes. It still has to be a story. (The ending of Planet of the Apes (the new version) does not make it one of these films. Stupid doesn't count).

I'm not sure either film method is bad, per se, nor do I think there is a clear line between them. But I am coming to prefer the latter type of film far more. It is more like reading. And I love reading. I'm not saying I dislike all of the former types of films (in fact, one of my favourites, 12 Monkeys, would probably fit in that category), but I do think most of them suck. Am I a movie snob? Maybe. But no more than anyone who tells me I "just have to see" The Matrix or something like that.

With Hollywood type movies, let's face it, you have to want the experience you are being handed. And in most cases, with what Hollywood is trying to hand me, I'm not interested. In fact, I'm repulsed. The director of Andrei Rublev is not a big fan of that kind of stuff. In fact he says it is not art. He says that art must be complex, and must allow its audience to have multitude of different experiences of the same experience. He also says that art would not exist in a perfect world, because there would be no need to try to make sense of anything, or sort through any mess, or depict anything. We'd all just get it and there would be no mystery to explore. He has an intriguing point, and I'm not sure what the ramifications are for those who think we are going to do nothing but sing in heaven.

But that's another issue, and not what I'm talking about here.

With Andrei Rublev I'm not sure I agree with everything it is saying. I'm not sure what it is saying. But I came away from it feeling like I had visited another century and another place. I felt like for the first time I sort of understood the Eastern Orthodox; understood "Mother Russia"; understood icons in religion. I also saw myself or others in the characters and was moved by the depiction of the common human/religious struggle. And I feel enriched for the experience.

This was a great film. Believe it or not I actually think I'm going to watch it again. I'll appreciate it more the second time around methinks.

So, I don't know what to tell you. You won't be able to rent this movie I don't think. Many probably won't want to. But if you want a new experience; if you want to have that sense of reading a book but don't want to read all that much; if you want a truly magnificent film experience: Well, get your hands on Andrei Rublev. It is beautiful. A masterpeice.

Below is a still from one of my favourite scenes. A horse getting off the ground. Awesome.


Tony Tanti said...

This is good review Jon, interestingly you left me not with an idea of what the movie is about but with a great idea of how it affected you. I like that. I'm intrigued. Most critics, myself included, tend to spend a lot of time telling the story. That has merit at times but this review was appropriately devoid of that.

My 2001 review is up by the way. As a fellow "fan" you'll want to read it. You'll get why I put "fan" in quotes when you see it.

matthew a. wilkinson said...

Wow! Great review.

I think everything Tarkovsky touched was gold (although I liked 'Solaris' less than his other films). Its nice to find someone else who loved this movie so much.

Its interesting that Tarkovsky thought art would be useless in a perfect world. I seem to remember a section in C.S. Lewis' 'The Great Divorce' where a painter goes to heaven and his "guide" has to explain to him that in eternity there is no need to make paintings. I remember being confused at that point.

Anyways. This was a wonderful review of 'Andrei Rublev.'

Jeff Coutts said...

I must say Jon, I was a little nervous lending this movie to you and building it up soooo much. It's nice to see reviews from my family on my top two movies of all time. It's especially nice to see that they were both enjoyed so much. Movies like this need to be shared. And even though we didn't watch this movie together, or talk about it, I feel like we have a shared something by both seeing it. Great reveiw.