Sanctification of an Icon Painter: Andrei Rublev (1966)
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“The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good.” Andrei Tarkovsky
Could Andrei Rublev be the best film on the Vatican film list? Andrei Tarkovsky is widely regarded as one of the greatest spiritual filmmakers of all time, and his 1966 masterpiece Andrei Rublev lives up to that reputation.
In this deeply moving and at times confounding work of art, we enter into the spiritual and artistic trials of Russia’s greatest icon painter, the monk Andrei Rublev, who works in the midst of the immense suffering of the Russian people in the 15th century. It is both a deeply contemplative interior work and an historical epic.
Catholic filmmaker Nathan Douglas joins the show to discuss his favorite film with us. After an introduction to the techniques and philosophy of Soviet montage theory, the discussion touches on many of the issues dealt with in the film:
How does one avoid burying one’s talents, whether from envy, vanity or more complicated motives? How can an artist, and a man, mature through suffering? Can the significance of great works of religious art be reduced to the perhaps impure motives of the powerful and wealthy people who commission them? Is there even a point to making beautiful things in a world filled with brutality and suffering?
The film also provides an occasion to discuss the morality of nudity and the treatment of animals in a cinematic context.
The best way to view Andrei Rublev is with a free trial subscription to the Criterion Channel streaming service. https://www.criterionchannel.com/andrei-rublev
It can also be viewed on YouTube, but the subtitle translation is poor. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsEnNDr6YfA
Fair warning: this film contains some nudity and violence.
Next up on Criteria: Contrary to what was said in this episode, due to a scheduling mishap, the next discussion will be about season 1 of The Chosen, in anticipation of the launch of season 2 on Easter Sunday. The originally planned discussion of Calvary will come out in April instead.
Explanation of Soviet montage theory https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtnTs90knro
Nathan Douglas https://nwdouglas.com/
Music is The Duskwhales, “Take It Back”, used with permission. https://theduskwhales.bandcamp.com/
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