Andrei Rublev (1969)



Director:  Andrei Tarkovsky.

Starring:  Anatoli Solonitsyn (Andrei Rublyov), Ivan Lapikov (Kirill), Nikolai Grinko (Danil Chorny), Nikolai Sergeyev (Theophanes the Greek), Irma Raush (Idiot girl, Durochka), Nikolai Burlyayev (Boriska), Yuri Nazarov (The Grand Prince/The Lesser Prince), Yuri Nikulin (Monk Patrikey), Rolan Bykov (The jester), Nikolai Grabbe (Stepan), Mikhail Kononov (Foma), Stepan Krylov (Head Bell-founder), Irina Miroshnichenko (Mary Magdalene), Bolot Bejshenaliyev (Tatar Khan).

15th century Russian icon painter (1360?-1430?)


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

The Passion According to Andrei: Part I.

Men are trying to hold a hot air balloon down as it is filled with hot air from a fire on the ground. A whole group of people are chasing a man named Yefim. He jumps into a small boat and rows his way across the river to get to the church. The people get in boats and chase after him. The men at the church are trying to accomplish their task before the arrival of the people chasing Yefim.

From the second floor Yefim calls to Archipushka to try and hold them back! But he canít hold them back. The people land on the bank of the river, run up the bank to the church and start grabbing the ropes tied to the balloon. Soon the balloon is released and starts flying away. Holding on to the ropes pulled together, Yefim flies away with the balloon. He covers a great deal of distance. Suddenly the balloon comes down to earth and crashes Yefim into the ground. Yefim just lays there on the ground unmoving beside the collapsed balloon.

The Jester. Summer 1400.

A man runs down from a building yelling "Danil!" He tells Danil that the Father told him to come back. There is no one to paint the icons. Danil and the two painter (Rublev and Kirill) with him just keep on going. Rublev says itís not good that they are leaving Troitsa. His companion asks if there arenít already enough painters in Moscow without them? Itís been ten years for one painter and nine and seven for the other two.

It starts raining and the three men start slowly running for shelter. In the tavern a jester sings a comic song about a boyar who had his beard shaven off and his wife didnít recognize him and told him to go away. The three painters arrive and ask if they can have shelter here for awhile. Permission granted.

Once the jester has completely settled down, everyone else settles down too. Men with long swords on horseback arrive at the tavern. They tell the jester to come over to them. They take him by his two arms and smash his head into a tree. He goes unconscious. They take the man and drape him over a horse and saddle and ride off with him.

Kirill has been absent for awhile.  He comes in and tells Rublev that they should go now. Rublev in turn awakens Danil. They leave.

Theophanes the Greek. Summer-Winter-Spring-Summer 1405-1406.

Kirill sees a man sleeping on a bench. It is Theophanes the Greek. He asks Kirill where he is from and Kirill says from Andronnikov Monastery. Theophanes asks if he is Andrei Rublev? He has heard a great deal of praise for the man. Kirill says no. Looking at the work of Theophanes, he says Rublev is good, but not as good as the work by Theophanes. He goes on to say that there is lacking in Rublevís paintings awe or faith that comes deep from inside oneís soul.

Theophanes says that he has pupils and assistants, but none of them are very good. He asks Kirill to be his assistant. He will need help in the spring with painting the Church of the Annunciation in Moscow. Kirill rejects the offer. No one is there to help Theophanes at the moment and he calls them all "wicked bastards". Theophanes asks Kirill if he will reconsider. He says yes on one condition. He will work for free for Theophanes as long as Theophanes himself comes to his monastery and before the whole community, including Andrei Rublev, and asks him for his help.

A messenger has come for Rublev from the Grand Prince in Moscow, from Theophanes the Greek. The Grand Prince orders Rublev to paint the Cathedral of the Annunciation with Theophanes. Rublev says he will go to Moscow. Rublev wants Danil and Kirill to go with him, but Kirill says he is not going. Danil is not going to go either. Rublev says the devil thrust some enmity into their friendship. He asks Danil to hear his confession. Rublev says he needs Danil: "Apart from you, I have no one."

Kirill leaves the monastery for the secular world because he says the monasteryís goals have been corrupted. Alone, the man is so angry that he beats his dog to death with his walking stick.

Rublev walks with his servant Foma. He tells Foma that he is always lying. Rublev is very dissatisfied with the young manís painting and his working habits. Theophanes is there in the woods and he says Foma should be beaten every Saturday, like a dog. Rublev and Theophanes talk about whether humans are basically good or evil. Rublev believes they are mostly good, while Theophanes believes the opposite. This is done against a re-enactment of Jesus and the crucifixion, but this crucifixion is done in the Russian snow.

The Holiday, Spring 1408.

Since Rublev and the others have still not reached Moscow, there is some doubt that they will ever be able to finish the Chathedral of the Assumption by Winter. Itís almost June now. People come out at night with lighted torches. Rublev says they are practicing witchcraft. Some of the young people run around nude and giggle. They go into the river waters. One of the nude women walks towards Rublev. As she approaches, some male grabs her and pulls her into the bushes. The nude people in the river make two parallel lines and float a canoe with witchcraft items in it between the two lines.

Rublev approaches a hut with a woman inside. Three men grab him and say they will put a stone around his neck and let him go swimming with it. They tie him to a cross, then they leave. Marfa, the woman, comes over to speak with him. Rublev says itís a sin to run around naked like the people in the river are doing. Marfa disagrees. She ls naked under her coat and she lets it drop from around her shoulders and starts kissing the monk Rublev while pressing her body against his. He asks her to untie him and she does so. Rublev runs off away from her. Marfa watches him from a fence.

In the early morning Rublev walks down by the river shore to be with his crew. They stare at Rublev and want to know where was he last night? Rublev says he was in the forest and got his face all scratched up. The small boat used in the witchcraft ceremony last night comes floating downstream and bumps into one of the monksí boats. Smoke still rises out of the ashes from the burning of the witchcraft items last night.

The Boyarís men on horseback capture a young man and woman. They rough them up. One of the boys, Sergei, traveling with the monks asks why they are doing that and an older woman says: "Because the accursed pagans donít believe in one God." Rublev tells the boy not to look and the older woman covers his head with her strong embrace.

With the help of her boyfriend Fyodor, the woman gets free and runs down the shore. It is Marfa. A man grabs her coat and she slinks out of it leaving her to run naked down the shore. She runs into the water and swims to the other side. She swims right past the boats of the monks.

The Last Judgment. Summer 1804.

Rublev is now involved in the painting of the cathedral. Sergei wants to go swimming because he is so hot, but they wonít let him. Foma gets so tired of Sergeiís whining that he tells him to go swimming. Go! Go!

The bishop is losing patience with the men because everything has been ready for two months and they havenít really starting painting. He wants the cathedral paintings finished by autumn. He is threatening to write to the Grand Prince about the situation.

Danil speaks with Rublev about the long delay in starting the painting. He says they could have finished the cupola and the columns already. Rublev says some of the subjects for the paintings disgust him and he canít paint. He does not want to frighten people with pictures of terrible punishments for the sinners. More specifically, he has trouble with the Last Judgment.

Foma gets so disgusted with the delay that he says he is leaving. They have asked him to paint a church at Pafnutievo. He will paint the Last Judgment there. He takes off.

In the mansion of the Grand prince, Rublev plays with a little girl he calls Princess, who splashes milk on him. The Grand Prince says that the paintings done so far should be done over against with stronger, brighter colors. The painters donít want to start over. The painter Stepan and the others start walking to Zvenigorod to work on another job. They say they will build another mansion just as good for the Princeís brother.

The boyarís enforcers attack them. One painterís face is cut up. Another of the painters is knifed to death. The enforcers then ride off.  Sergei can barely speak. He looks out at the men down on the ground hurt or dead.

Rublev, perhaps in frustration, throws paint on the wall. A mute peasant girl, called the idiot girl,comes into the cathedral. She urinates on the bare floor. She also walks over to the wall that is splattered from the thrown paint. She starts crying over the mess. Rublev decides that they can paint the Last Judgment, but not paint the people as sinners. He rushes out of the church.

The Passion According to Andrei: Part II.

The Raid. Autumn 1408.

Someone yells to the Prince that the Tatars are coming! The men get on their horses and congregate by the river. On the other side of the river arrives the Tatars. The brother of the Princeís men shows the Tatars where to ford the river. The Grand Princeís brother says that the Grand Prince is in Lithuania. The Tatar leader says itís obvious that the brother wants to be the next Grand Prince.

The Princeís brother tells the Tatar leader that last winter the Metropolitan summoned him and the Prince and demanded that they kiss the cross and reconcile with one another. Now together the Prince's brother and the Tatar leader look over the town of Vladimir. It is surrounded by a huge defensive wall. The combined forces attack the town. A woman is cut down by a thrown spear. A cow catches fire. The town is taken. The leadership now goes to the Prince's brother.

Foma barely escapes death. Women are caught and raped. A battering ram is used to try to bust in the door to the cathedral. Rublev and the others are inside the cathedral. The enemy finally busts open the doors and the Tatars come riding in. The young idiot girl who cried at the paint on the wall is taken by a soldier, but Rublev kills him with an ax.

The Tatar leader asks about the paintings on the walls. He is told it is the nativity scene. In the cradle is the son of the Virgin Mary, Jesus. The Tatar leader asks how can she be a virgin with a son? He then shakes his head saying that strange things happen in Russia.

In a religious ceremony, Rublev is blessed and kisses the cross. A Russian is tortured by the Tatars and then dragged by a horse along the ground around the castle. Foma is shot in the back with an arrow and he falls face first into a stream.

Rublev sees Theophanes the Greek and canít believe he is still alive. He thought for sure the man was dead. After seeing what the Tatars did to the Russians, Rublev tells Theophanes that he was right about the nature of man. He comments: "They killed everyone. Even my Seryoga." Only the young woman survived. He tells Theophanes that he will never paint again. Theophanes says so what if they burned his painted walls. He has had many of his works destroyed. He tells Rublev that he is committing a grave sin by not painting. Rublev says he didnít tell the Greek the worst thing. He killed a man. Theophanes says God will forgive him.

The Charity. Winter 1412.

The idiot girl starts to eat some scraps, but Rublev forces her to spit them out of her mouth. It is a time of famine . Apples are brought in but many are rotten. The villages are deserted. Everyone has left Khotkovo. In Vladimir itís worse for there has been no harvest there for three years. From Vladimir comes the very sick Kirill. Rublev is here from Vladimir and he has brought the mute idiot girl with him. His guild has been destroyed, in part by the Tatars. The fate of Danil is not known.

The father of the monastery comes forward and Kirill begs to be let back in. Permission is refused. To expiate his sins, the father says he must copy out the Scriptures fifteen times. Kirill thanks the father.

Tatars show up at the monastery. Rublev ignores them and goes about his duties. The dogs fight over scraps of meat thrown to them by the Tatars. The Tatars grab idiot girl. Rublev goes over and drags the girl away by the hand. She breaks away from him and goes back to the Tatars. The leader says he will make her his eighth wife. He has no Russian wives as of yet. The girl dances around before the horsemen. Rublev comes to get her again, but she runs from him. She gets on the horse of the leader and off she goes with him as the Tatars ride out.

Kirill sees Rublev and talks to him. Rublev walks away from him. Kirill tells him not to worry about the girl. They wouldnít dare harm a crazy girl. It would be a sin.

The Bell. Spring-Summer-Autumn-Winter-Spring 1423-1424.

A man on horseback asks a boy if this is the home of Nikolka, the bell-maker? Yes, but heís dead now. He says the plague took him, his mother and sister. Of the bell-makers, only Fyodor is left alive. But even he is in bed with the plague. He will die soon. The boy finally says he will make the bell for them, but his offer is rejected. The boy, named Boriska, not discouraged, says that before his father died, he taught him the secret of making bells. So they take the boy with them.

Boriska starts digging the casting-pit for the bell. Some of the men help him, while others do not. The casting pit turns out to be quite large. The men find some clay that they think is good, but Boriska rejects it. They search for the better clay. Stepan finds some clay, but Boriska also says itís not the good clay.

Searching by himself, Boriska finally finds the clay he needs. Boriska sets up a big operation digging out the clay. One day he runs into Rublev and tells the father that he is in the way and itís dangerous here. The clay is to be fired, but it needs more support and there is no more lumber. Boriska tells them they will have to do without the support, but some of the men refuse to do this. So the boss has one of the young men whipped for refusing to work.

The next morning a huge firing is begun. Boriska is pleased. He tells the men to get more silver from the Prince. The jester from the past tries to kill Rublev. He says the man is responsible for the loss of half his tongue and ten years in prison. Kirill intervenes and tells the man that he is mistaken, this is the wrong man. The jester relents, but he still says that Rublev denounced him to the Prince.

Silver is being melted to make the bell. Men work to keep the furnaces hot. People come out to see the work in progress. Rublev is also there to watch. The outer layer around the bell is taken off. The bell looks very impressive.

Kirill tells Rublev that he was being eaten alive by envy. Thatís why he left the monastery. He hopes he can finished writing the Scriptures fifteen times before he dies. But then he gets a bit angry and asks himself why is he confessing his sins to Rublev? Rublev is a bigger sinner than he. Then he urges Rublev to take the painting job at Trinity Cathedral. Kirill confesses it was actually him who denounced the jester to the Prince some ten years ago. Rublev doesnít say anything.

Now the bell is to be moved. A huge structure is build over the bell to lift is out of the casting pit. Thousands of people come out to help move the bell. The men start pulling the ropes to lift the bell. The Prince and his men come out to see the bell being moved. The bell is lifted successively out of the casting pit. It is now blessed and consecrated by the clergy.

A bell-ringer now goes in to test the bell. He keeps going back and forth with the ringer.  He finally lets it hit the side and the bell produces a beautiful sound.

The exhausted Boriska collapses. Rublev comforts him. He says Boriska will cast more bells and he will paint more paintings. The mute girl dressed in fancy clothes now looks over to see Rublev with Boriska.

Many of the paintings of Rublev are shown.


This is a long movie.  Often during the movie I wondered where they were going with all these long scenes.  I figured they couldn't cover his entire life because the pace was going too slow and eating up the hours.  The movie more dealt with a time of mental crisis for the great Russian icon painter.  He's not sure at all if he can or even wants to continue painting.  He finally makes it through the crisis, but it takes awhile.  At times the movie felt strange to me.  Was part of it the detailed discussions among the monks and the painters?  Perhaps.  I wouldn't say I really liked the film, but it did keep my interest.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


1360  --  birth of Andrei Rublev, considered to be the greatest Russian iconographer. 

1405  --  Rublev decorated icons and frescos for the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Moscow Kremlin. 

1408  --  he painted (together with Daniil Cherni) the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir. 

c. 1410  --  he painted the icon of the Old Testament Trinity at Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.  (It is also known as the Hospitality of Abraham.)  It is the only work authenticated as entirely his own.

1425-1427  --  he painted the Cathedral of St. Trinity in the Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra. 

1430  --after Daniilís death, Andrei painted his last work, frescoes of the Savior Cathedral in Moscow's Andronikov Monastery.

1430 (January 29)  --  Rublev died at Andronikov Monastery.

1551  --  at Stoglavi Sobor, Rublevís iconography was announced as the ideal model for church paintings.

1959  --  opening of the Andrei Rublev museum in Andronnikov Monastery.

1988  --  Rublev was canonized. 


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