The Drama of Bell Founding in Andrei Rublev

The seminal film Andrei Rublev directed by Andrei Tarkovsky and co-written with Andrei Konchalovsky is regarded as one of the best films of all time. That’s nice and all, but what I’m interested in is the extended, dramatized section on bell founding. The final section shows in over 30 minutes the entire casting process of a bell, from digging a pit, to building the mold, to pouring the bronze, to lifting out the giant bell, to its first wailing cry. Not only that, it is a gigantic, heavily inscribed bell cast during the middle ages, further highlighting the massive effort and deep importance of casting bells like no other film scene.

One of my favorite moments is when the young, untested bell caster, Boriska, finds the right clay to make the molds. What enthusiasm!

The scene that is the climax of the casting, and of the entire film, is the inaugural tolling of the bell. Up to this point, the bell (and by extension the caster) has not proven itself. There is no truer test of its quality than its sound. If the bell does not sound sufficiently good, the Grand Prince will behead Boriska, so there is a lot riding on this first ring. A worker swings the massive clapper back and forth, mesmerizing the viewer with its pendulum action and heightening the tension with its glacial-pace approach towards the bell wall. Finally, the bell rings out, and it produces a full, glorious sound. The crowd erupts into cheers, and Durochka, a prominent character in the movie, smiles. Russian chiming interplays with the new bell in jubilation. Exhausted, relieved, Boriska breaks down into tears, while the titular character comforts him. In this moment, the protagonist and icon painter realizes the potential impact of his own art form.

Watch this YouTube video from 2 hours, 14 minutes until 2 hours, 52 minutes for the entire bell casting sequence.

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