Andrei Rublev makes life in medieval Russia sure look grim.  Come on, guys, how about a smile?  Even the jester with his bawdy songs can’t get people to crack a grin.  (Of course, said jester gets frogmarched out of the inn and his head knocked into a tree by some of the king’s men.  But the king only cuts out half of his tongue.  Why half?  Because the king has a sense of humor.)

A memoir is not a history; it’s no more a recounting of ‘what really happened’ than a biopic is.  And Tarkovsky admittedly takes historical liberties with Andrei Rublev.  Accuracy be damned –if the themes he wants to explore don’t match the known history, then it’s better to create one’s own history.

The re-creation of history is an unconscious impulse.  A silent revision.  Next time, things will go different. For instance, the woman next to me (do I mention I’m on a plane?  headed for New Orleans?  is this part of the historical record?) continually retouches digital photographs of a young man whom I assume is her son.  In the picture, he sits on stone steps, hands clasped.  On his right arm is a bracelet, a ‘LIVE STRONG’ rip-off in garish pink.  It dangles from his wrist like a gay manacle.  With her editing software, she tries different methods of erasing the bracelet:  blending, light-shading, blurring.  But none of these work.  It looks instead as if his wrist has been bruised and scarred.

And thus the memory is altered.  If the photo shows that no bracelet, did it ever exist?  If Tarkovsky insists that Andrei Rublev killed a man and then took a vow of silence as atonement, does this become the truth?  If I recant this entry years later — there was no woman on the plane! I never went to New Orleans! — does the revision become the actual memory?

The woman makes a scrapbook:  a different son, posing in front of trophies, holding basketballs, reclining before a lake.  Her computer desktop is littered with photographs.  She collages the pictures together and labels them in a curlicue font best suited for ice cream.  “Brandon.  Sr. 2010.  Tuttle Tigers.”  I don’t know if this portrait is meant for an audience wider than the living room mantle, but it’s no different, really, from what I’m doing here:  accumulating my own memories, hoping that they add up to a well-lived life, a meaningful life.  I just prefer a more subdued typeface.

She finishes by tilting the photographs, trying to add visual interest.  Tarkovsky keeps his camera moving to create a sense of urgency and the forward push of time.  I tackle movie after movie after movie and am thankful my next Tarkovsky is Solaris.  We’re siblings in futility.  But it is our history that we create, and ours alone.

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