Last week I had a chance to revisit a film called Andrei Rublev, directed by a filmmaker named Andrei Tarkovsky. It was the third time I had seen the film, and it is a movie viewing I will never, ever, ever forget. The room I was in was deathly quiet for the whole 185 minutes, and when the film was over, I sat speechless for a while longer, before immediately updating my top 100 films list and moving it from spot number 86 to spot number 15. This movie absolutely tore me apart, and I cherished every second of it.
There are several great scenes in this powerful, earthshattering, quite literally lifechanging movie, but one struck me in particular: the film’s epilogue. It is the only part of the film shot in colour, and it is the first time Tarkovsky used colour in a feature (this was only his second of seven films). Unlike most of the rest of the film, there is no plot in this eight minute scene. There is simply a slide show of paintings created by the film’s protagonist, the eponymous Rublev, a very famous icon painter and Russian artist. According to Wikipedia, these are the paintings we are shown: Enthroned Christ, Twelve Apostles, The Annunciation, Twelve Apostles, Jesus entering Jerusalem, Birth of Christ, Enthroned Christ, Transfiguration of Jesus, Resurrection of Lazarus, The Annunciation, Resurrection of Lazarus, Birth of Christ, Trinity, Archangel Michael, Paul the Apostle, The Redeemer.
Even if religion is not your thing (and it is certainly not mine, since I’m an atheist), you may still be struck in awe by the power of these paintings, which are unlike any others. But it’s not so much the paintings that hit me, it was more the music and the editing – the way the music and images integrated and juxtaposed, that sent shivers down my spine. It was truly staggering. And then there is my favourite moment, which occurs at the very last few seconds of the scene, in which the music fades away and is replaced by the sound of rain, and the camera fades from The Redeemer to one of cinema’s most haunting images – in fact, one of my top five movie images I’ve ever seen: that of four horses, stranded on a small island during a rainstorm. That’s all there is, for only a few seconds, but when I saw it my heart absolutely sunk. I could not move. I was frozen. Then the movie finished.
Below I’ve embedded a video of the scene. This video is actually of the entire last 50 minutes of the movie, since my video of the scene was blocked by Mosfilm. So, to see the scene, you will have to skip through the video to approximately 41 minutes and watch from there on. Find eight minutes to watch this and just sink into the music and images. They might not move you the way you moved me (they have a lot more effect when you watch the entire film), but I still encourage you to give them a look. Even if the first seven minutes bores you, stick through it for the last minute. There has never been a film finale quite like this.