I thought I would do a post introducing that there are of course several versions of Andrei Rublev. Those who are ‘in the know’ are probably laughing with sadistic glee, but I think it is useful to at least try to give a very brief overview for those who are just meeting this wonderful film and give them some hints as to where to find more information. Suffice to say, this is not a straightforward subject. All should be warned that it will get ‘hectic’.
Essentially, versions of the film exist in three different running times: a 145 minute version, more than one 185 minute version, and a 205 minute version. So duration is not the only thing to consider as apparently there are at least two versions of the 185 minute cut; they may run for the same amount of time, but they are edited differently.
In Australia (where I live), the most readily-available DVD version of the film is that put out by The Distinction Series. This edition goes for 185 minutes and is apparently touted to be the version that ‘Tarkovsky preferred’.
The 205 minute ‘original’ version of the film (it is longer because it is the version of the film that existed before Tarkovsky cut it down to platacate the censors, but at the same time, he held that he agreed with all the cuts he made because they improved the film’s momentum) is available as the well-known Criterion Collection edition. This version was thought as the best version for a long time as it was ‘rescued’ by Martin Scorsese, and who can argue that it is surprising this original version survived at all?
Anyway, it does not end there, for there is yet another version (which I am sad to say I have not seen) which is the RusCiCo edition. Many report that although the edit of this version is not as satisfying, the image quality is astounding. For a lengthy but very interesting examination of the differences between the RusCiCo version and that of the Criterion Collection, you may want to look through this archived PDF file of the Criterion Collection’s discussion board.
Also confusing me is the Artificial Eye version that is advertised as being 175mins long; it does not appear on Nostalghia.com’s exhaustive list of Tarkovsky DVDs. (Here is a lovely comparison of the transfer quality between the Artificial Eye version and that of the Criterion Collection.)
And of course apart from the different durations, edits and transfers, there are numerous editions put out through different distributors. I am just beginning to come to terms with how complicated this subject really is.
For me, the crux of the issue is that I want to see all the versions, and I absolutely need to see as much footage as possible. I remember reading an article by Robert Efird* where he analyses a series of flashbacks in Andrei Rublev, and I sadly realised I had not seen one of the instances he was describing.
*Efird, Robert. ‘Andrei Rublev: Transcendental Style and Creative Vision’. Journal of Popular Film and Television. 35.2 (2007). p. 86-97