Wednesday, 9 July 2008


A former student of mine – VS, a bright one – visited me and we watched a film together. I sort of introduced him to world cinema, thanks to his enthusiasm. That happened about four years ago. He was very keen to attend the film screenings I organized in town (at a central and cosy bookstore) and took up the habit of having an interest in film as art. Well, I suggested we should watch Andrei Roublev by Tarkovski as he missed it two years ago, when he last had the opportunity to see it. Besides, he has recently developed an interest in doing a paper on the influence of religious icons on the spirit of men. He has to follow a psychological approach in it, given the profile of his academic training. Anyway, I said – half jokingly - it was high time he watched essential cinema and, without hesitation, he knew what I had in mind: It isn’t Roublev the film you want us to watch today, is it? I took the chance and said it was, actually. I really missed watching this masterpiece again. And, as always, I thoroughly enjoyed it. As a bonus, this time I watched it I felt that I am not missing anything by not watching contemporary cinema - just the opposite. V had a good point when he identified a meaning in the last scene which I didn’t: earlier in the film Boris (the bell caster) had mocked Roublev for having pity for a boy who was being whipped for his reluctance to work, and told him to go and comfort the boy, as that is what monks are for; at the end of the movie, Boris weeps after the victory of the bell casting: he succeeded in “engineering” the whole process, even no one had taught him the secret of bell casting (his father had been a bell caster, but he died without passing the secret of his craft to his son). The whole world is happy, yet he feels angry with his late father who never taught him the secret…Roublev – the great icon painter - then gives up his vow of silence (he hasn’t spoken to a human soul for ten years) and says: Rejoice, you have made all these people happy!…Let’s work together from now on: you will cast bells and I will paint icons! …The one who mocked at the monks’ mission (consoling miserable people) is now being comforted by a monk. Pride melts into humility.

Later on this day VS asks me how can one transform his hesitation into strength of character and determination, for example when one has to fall out of a consuming relationship – if I got it right. What exactly makes a man firm in his decision? I dared to say: prayer. My reply was to meet the bullets of mockery my friend and former student fired at the word – very old fashioned and bizarre indeed - I used…Boris’ bravery is - once again - reincarnated in this defiant young man. Tarkovski’s dilemmas (one of them being: there is no salvation outside prayer, yet mankind does not now how to pray any longer) have – once again - transcended the screen.