Volunteer-run Deptford Cinema stepped out of its intimate 40 seat venue to embrace the epic last weekend, screening all 205 minutes of Andrei Tarkovsky’s medieval artist biopic ANDREI RUBLEV (1966) in St Nicholas Church (13.10.18). Here’s our writeup.
ANDREI RUBLEV is Andrei Tarkovsky’s widely acclaimed 1966 film about the medieval life and times of the titular artist and national folk hero. It’s long… The pace is deliberate, controlled, precise (and yet sometimes chaotic): you are meant to feel the passage of time as the onscreen characters endure and are tested. Wedged into our wooden pew in St Nicholas Church we were, at times, tested too: feeling awestruck by the sheer majesty of it all but also – only fleetingly! – full of loathing for Tarkovsky and Deptford (indeed all Cinemas…) for the pain…
Another challenge, and one that contributes to the film’s unique sense of strangeness, is a cast of almost indentikit “bearded men”, all wearing drab, matching costumes. Rarely introduced or contextualised in any usual way, you won’t always know who is who. Whilst this forces you to be immersed in Rublev’s chaotic world, it can, like the extended run time, throw you back out again.
But these are minor miseries. Destined to top “best ever” lists, this is an absolute masterpiece of original, characterful filmmaking, presented impeccably by Deptford Cinema’s brigade of volunteers. Two sequences in particular seared their way into our memory at St Nicholas Church.
The sacking of the cathedral by marauding Tartars that opens Part 2 is an absolute nightmare. From the fun-loving attitude of the horde en route – you’d think they were out for a casual Sunday jaunt – to scenes of complete carnage shot from every angle, and the eventual torture of a believer seeking to keep safe the cathedral’s gold, this rips through your brain with violent clarity. Filmed with what appears to be the entire population of a medieval walled city, the scale and savagery of these sequences stunned the Deptford audience into silence.
But there is always calm after a storm… Rublev, almost driven mad by the violence he has witnessed, stands in the ruined and still burning cathedral, surrounded by corpses of the fallen and enveloped in eye-wateringly beautiful flurries of snow falling through the roof… It is a scene of profound faith and deep, shattering emotion.
ANDREI RUBLEV will take many attempts over a lifetime to wrestle with fully. Deptford Cinema is to be applauded for presenting it with such immediacy. As we were told in the introduction, the space in which we experience the community ritual of watching a film together can have a profound impact on our appreciation of that film. And so it was here. Vaulting out of their usual 40 seat home, Deptford Cinema handled the transition to 200+ seat church with apparent ease.
Unlike the diminished spectacle often associated with the name – where you pay to watch other people have a great time – this truly was “event cinema”; from Deptford’s epic shift in scale to the monumental surroundings, and even more monumental film. Augmented by excellent vegan food and an amply stocked bar, the space that Deptford Cinema created invited us to pay attention to this incredible artwork, benefiting from a context also born of profound faith to bring out its themes. We can’t sing our praises of this extraordinary evening loudly enough.
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
- Find ANDREI RUBLEV (1966) on IMDb.
- ANDREI RUBLEV was screened by Deptford Cinema at St Nicholas Church, as their first off-site event. Consider supporting them by becoming a patron.
- Support RADIANT CIRCUS by clicking the link and buying your copy of ANDREI RUBLEV on Blu-Ray or as part of a Boxset by Curzon Artifical Eye from the big river.
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Featured Image: ANDREI RUBLEV (1966).