In the early sixties, just as he was putting the finishing touches on his first feature, Ivan’s Childhood, Andrei Tarkovsky went out for a walk with his writing collaborator, Andrei Konchalovsky, and actor Vasily Livanov and came back with the subject for his next film. The project would be a period piece about Andrei Rublev, a renowned fifteenth-century icon painter, and it gradually took shape as a grandly ambitious immersion into the past, structurally daring and scrupulously authentic. Before the decade was out, Tarkovsky’s final vision—a dreamlike series of scenes from the life of the artist that the Soviet government initially saw fit to suppress—had begun to transfix viewers around the world, as it continues to do today.
“Why did I choose Andrei Rublev for this film?” Tarkovsky asks himself in the above clip from The Three Andreis, a 1966 documentary that’s included on our new edition of the director’s elusive and meditative masterwork. As Tarkovsky goes on to attest here, conjuring the world of the fifteenth-century painter allowed him to explore how a great artist “convey[s] moral ideals to the people,” even in the face of considerable personal and political upheaval.