We divided Andrei Rublev into 3 sections and watched them during lunch on 3 consecutive days. The film is well over 3 hours long, and we couldn't find time to watch it in a single sitting. Perhaps that was our problem, because we definitely did have a problem. We struggled with this film from the beginning balloonist through the final color pictures of actual icons. The title character is silent for most of the movie and is never seen painting. The other characters come and go and sometimes return, leaving us to wonder..., well leaving us to wonder what they have to do with anything. What does it all mean?
It has many different scenes depicting events of various kinds but has no real plot that we could discern. I mean, what was with the pagan rites, anyway? Rublev just watches. Is it intended to be a picture of temptation? I don't get the impression Rublev was tempted, just observing. Watching is what he does throughout the film. When he takes action the results are mixed. His first attempt to save the "Holy Fool" results in a death and long repentance, while his second attempt results in failure. Since the girl is no worse off after the second time than the first, and I might argue she's better off as a result of his failure to rescue her that second time, I wonder if she needed saving in the first place. Kirill, on the other hand, seems the opposite of the mute girl and seems in more need of saving with all his intelligence and insight, yet Rublev ignores him.
Rublev seems inspired at the end by the faith of the bell-maker and breaks his silence to suggest they go together to practice their crafts. Kirill's earlier rant about how he should break his silence and paint has no such effect. Reasoned argument does not reach him, but the faith of the simple peasant boy brings him to act.
I see it as a picture of faith, a picture of the soaring transcendence of faith and simplicity over reason and harsh reality, but I can't articulate why I see it this way. I'll be puzzling over this one for quite a while.
The Criterion Contraption has a review.