Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986) was one of the great poets of world cinema. A fiercely independent artist, Tarkovsky crafted poignantly beautiful films that have proven inscrutable and been bitterly disputed. These qualities are present in abundance in Andrei Rublev (1966), Tarkovsky's first fully mature film. Ostensibly a biographical study of Russia's most famous medieval icon-painter, Andrei Rublev is both lyrical and epic, starkly naturalistic and allegorical, authentically historical and urgently topical. While much remains mysterious in Andrei Rublev, critics have recently begun to reappraise it as a groundbreaking film that undermines comfortable notions of life and spirituality. Robert Bird's multifaceted account of Andrei Rublev extends this reevaluation of Tarkovsky's radical aesthetic by establishing the film's historical context and presenting a substantially new reading of key scenes. Bird definitively establishes the film's tortured textual history, which has resulted in two vastly different versions. He relates the film to traditions in Russian art and intellectual history, but finally his analysis focuses on Andrei Rublev as a visual and narrative artwork that treats profound existential questions by challenging conventional notions of representation and vision.
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Robert Bird is Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago. He is the translator of Viacheslav Ivanov's Selected Essays (2001).
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