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Andrei Tarkovsky was without a doubt one of the genuine artist working
in the cinema. With films such as "Andrei Rublev", "Solaris", "Mirror",
Stalker" and "Nostalghia", Tarkovsky enriched the world with powerful
works for art. "Sacrifice" was his final film, made while Tarkovsky was
dying of cancer. The story concerns an elderly academic who lives with
his family in a rural part of Sweden. When he learns that about an
imminent nuclear war, he makes a desperate pact with God. The film is
astonishingly beautiful, like all Tarkovsky's films. Images of nature,
water and fire feature prominently, as does the shifting from colour
images to black and white.
It is important to remember that Tarkovsky is not a very accessible film-maker, and his films make great demands on viewer's patience and attention, but if you are willing to make the effort you will be rewarded by an unforgettable experience.
Tarkovsky's death bed film certainly lacks some of the fire and energy of
his earlier work, but the story of Alexander's search for faith amidst the
worst kind of madness is by no means dull. The cinematography and editing
are obviously Bergman influenced, but anyone who says that it bothers them
to see Tarkovsky borrow the style of another needs to learn more about
Eisenstein, Kuleshov, and perhaps Wajda.
This film serves as a stark example of the real difference between the work of the European authors and Hollywood. While viewing, keep an eye on the editing. Th film opens on a five minute long shot in which it is extremely difficult to even discern which character is speaking. The scenes are made up of as few shots as possible and the shortest shot of the entire film is about 10 seconds. There are less than a dozen close ups in the entire piece, which may be why American audiences with their limited attention spans, would reject the film. The Sacrifice might not sit well with Tarkovsky purists, but it's themes and philosophy, I feel, surpass in depth, any of the master's other works.
This is the best movie I have seen so far. I watch it again about once or twice a year, like a ritual or an annual holiday I would be taking into levels of consciousness where the mind is not really required. I do not understand, and I do not feel like I have to, it is secondary. I feel touched like only pure and silent beauty can touch me, or bliss. It is obviously created around an idea of sacrifice, being both a gift to others but also to ourselves. By offering his life in order to save his family, his grandson and the world, the main character is also giving a true meaning to his own life that had mostly been of artificiality, questionings and shallowness. Every person who enters the house, he starts seeing under a deeper if not more expressionistic light... And when he meets with magic (while making love with the witch) he creates the bridge that will take him from reality into mystery. The whole film is as breathtaking and self-sufficient as a painting, or even more so, a Russian icon. It is ageless. I suppose it will remain with me for my entire life. I consider it Tarkovsky's last will, but even more so a piece of the Human Heritage that should be protected and kept accessible for future generation.
I have just registered to the database, and this is my first review that I've written for it. The first film I thought of was The Sacrifice, Andrei Tarkovsky's final masterwork, and in my opinion his best. This film affected me like no other, and forced me to look at Tarkovsky in an all new light, as a spiritual creator. See this film, I guarantee it will change your outlook on life if you give it the chance. It is the most challenging, spiritually invigorating film I have ever seen, by truly the greatest cinematic poet/visionary of all time. Tarkvosky is the future of cinema, the one who carried the torch, the one whom all aspiring cinematic artists should look to, and a genius who passed far before his rightful time.
I sit here, agog, with the holy terror of wonder and amazement at the
immensely tender spirituality which this film has bestowed upon me.
This is my second Tarkovsky film...and now I am hooked. I am not going to be very successful in explaining this movie to anyone -- even to myself, so forgive the sketchiness of these reflections.
THE SACRIFICE is a revelation to me. The level of pathos I feel right now is overwhelming -- something that has occurred too infrequently in my life.
This film regards the human soul as the most precious commodity possible and life as it's most ample celebration. "Time cannot vanish without trace.." Tarkovsky has said. And so the time that Tarkovsky spent on this Earth, has been well spent and he has left more than a trace for future generations to wonder and ponder at.
I adore Tarkovsky's images, so lovingly photographed here by SVEN NIKVIST. Most remarkable of these images are the final settings where everything comes to a point...even THEY have dialogue made up of great silences packed with intensely significant emotions which have come from the protagonist's culmination.
The choice of music here is also deeply personal and wildly original in its contrasts and penetrating meaning. In the final strains, we hear first the modern and timeless Asian sensibilities of Watazumido Shuso. After which a great silence of visual narrative we are offered a spiritual selection from some of the most beautiful music ever written -- Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Matthew Passion.
All of these, combine in one's mind's eye and heart to provide the thoughtful viewer with one of the most spiritually satisfying endings of any movie I have ever witnessed.
The movie seems long but, it really isn't as long as you might imagine. I suppose it is because so much of the narrative is not splashed into our senses -- ready for regurgitation. There is much we must work for. There is much for which we must contribute our own viewpoints and form our own conclusions.
But then life isn't filled with dialogue in the conventional sense...it is more packed with our own thoughts and our own decisions -- as so is this film. It allows you to conclude many things on your own.
Isn't it kind of Tarkovsky to have been so benevolent to us and our panoply of thought-patterns? We come to this movie all with our different characters and personalities...Tarkovsky thought of this.
And he offered us a masterpiece - where we were the mental protagonist who made the endings for each us - our own -- and yet all different -- but the same, after all.
Quite possibly my favourite film. Quite why I'm not always sure -- perhaps this is really a rather pretentious film ? Perhaps one in which a long time is spent without engaging the audience ? One with perhaps the most unlikely postman one might meet outside of a Bergman film set ? But, from the moment the camera opens lovingly on the icon, to the closing as the ambulance drives away, I find myself captivated, and drawn back to watch again. As with Tarkovsky's other films, certain images linger long in the memory:"little man" watering the ikebana, the levitating witch, the crashing milk jug, the roar of the jets. For those of us cursed with a lifetime of weekly wage slavery this is a fine restorative film for the spirit.
It is difficult to find words expressive enough for Tarkovsky's final--and
perhaps greatest--work. One could briefly explain some of the plot, but
that would mean nothing. This is a film that speaks of terror, of faith,
and above all, of binding promises. An intellectual, living in a remote and
beautiful cottage is celebrating his birthday with friends and family--when
war is announced. Promises of life, and of death are the main premise of
the film, and one cannot walk away from it. This is the sort of film that
terrifies, ensnares, and draws you in, so that no matter what the moment,
you cannot rip yourself away. Filmed with supreme skill and incredible
beauty (every separate shot is breathtaking), this is a film that forces you
to look at your life, your premises, and your entire evaluation of
The question of liking or disliking this film is unimportant. Undoubtedly there will be people who will dislike it. But the one thing that is indeed impossible, is to remain indifferent to it.
This is a spare and haunting work that weaves its spell slowly yet
powerfully. Every shot is framed with loving care, and Tarkovsky allows
camera to remain fixed on a scene as events unfold. It's perhaps the most
beautifully photographed film I've ever seen. There's very little music
during the course of the movie, yet subtle, mysterious sounds contribute
an overall feeling of mystery and foreboding. The acting and dialogue are
doubt greatly influenced by the work of Bergman. Perhaps the film is a
of homage to him.
This is definitely not a popcorn movie, nor one to see on a first date. I recommend you see it when you're not distracted or impatient - when you can be fully present and mindful as events develop at an unhurried, organic, human pace. The cumulative effect is devastating, yet somehow wonderfully cathartic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Tarkovsky is one of the five inventors of cinema, and the one most disconnected from the constraints of reality. He is highly intuitive, visually rooted of course and deliberately eschews the necessity of making narrative `sense.' The magic of his earlier masterpieces (`Rublyev,' `Mirror') is precisely in how he sustained a reality with highly folded, irrational causality.
But as he grew older, he became celebrated and ineluctably developed `theories' of his approach. He began speaking and writing about his work and slowly slipped into the safe harbor of making sense. This film -- his last as it turns out -- is the result.
Along the way, he allied himself with Bergman, someone who always was rooted precisely in the simple narrative. Bergman's heritage is the theater. He begins with `real' life, abstracting and staging elements of it. Bergman's whole point is to make the sense of the situation easy to read so that he can intensify and embellish it. Life is real, and because we can enter the reality of a Bergman film, we can emotionally relate to it. Bergman's world is allegorical, real, and causally connected where Tarkovsky's is metaphorical, ultrareal with causal folding.
So it is a strange voyage for Tarkovsky to convince himself of the logic of his theories, and to journey to Bergman's doorstep.
This film has a strongly Tarkovsky-ite beginning (until the map) and end (the last 47 minutes beginning with the visit of the actor to the witch or -- depending on your tolerance -- perhaps a few minutes before with the vision of the small house). In between, there is a muddle of emotional angst that is clumsily inserted. Also, it may be my imagination, but all the cinematography seems different than his earlier work. His early eye was languorously curious, lingering and floating. Here it is Bergmenesque: deliberately fated, smooth with premeditated and goals with foreknowledge of the fate.
To see what I mean: look at the documentary included on the Kino DVD. That documentary is flatly stupid in plumbing the mysteries of Tarkovsky (it elucidates his `theories'), but it does include the remarkable original shot of the transition from the witch's visit to the post-holocaust peace. The original is pure Tarkovsky: a shot of the actor, then panning to a scene with the same actor surrounded, then a continuous movement through visitors, reflections, players in the magic, the world, and a remarkable image of the nude daughter corralling chickens. Only that last image remains in the final version which is reduced to Bergman-like clarity. It is dramatically economical, but Andrei's poetry is lost. It is a dead tree planted with high hopes.
This package: the film, the documentary on the film and the book, are proof that artists are often not the best source of insight into their art. This film, alas, is not "The Tempest," a self-referential perspective on an artist who understands his own magic. It is instead an echo of that artist's misunderstanding of himself.
Must be seen for that alone, preferably after "Prospero's Books."
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 4: Worth watching.
Please forgive this disorganized, vague rambling...it is difficult to
put into words what this film has done for me, as it is a spiritual
experiment in time and character more than it is a traditional film.
I will say right off that this movie is not for everyone. Tarkovsky is a fan of long takes, slow character development and awkward silences. Even though this is one of my favourite films, it was a struggle to get through the whole thing...which is, in fact, an effective medium to describe a man who is finding it a struggle to progress with his everyday life. The settings are fittingly dreary and dismal; indeed, his son seems to be the only spark of life in the film.
There is no plot to speak of; the film is an in-depth character study. Tarkovsky has given the main character so many dimensions that one cannot help but wonder if it is semi-autobiographical. Elements of magic realism serve to enhance the character's despair and isolation, but there are finely-crafted human details -- such as a shaking hand that must try twice to light a match properly -- that give the film a very realistic sense. The world Tarkovsky has created is like a vivid dream.
The images in this movie are incredible: watch for his use of fire, wood, earth and water, for all four elements are heavily drawn upon in his shots.
There is a documentary floating around out there that has Tarkovsky discuss this film in depth; it shows the processes he invented to create some of the takes, and the stubbornness he exhibits to get everything to match his vision perfectly. I saw the documentary before the film, and I think it only added to my appreciation. His book, "Sculpting in Time," also offers insights and bits of philosophy that add dimensions to this movie.
Though I regret that Tarkovsky passed before he could produce more works like this, "The Sacrifice" is a fitting epilogue to his collection of films, and perhaps the best eulogy a person could ever hope for.
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