Sight and Sound - 09/01/1986
"...Elegance and formal intensity....One has to return to it, and listen for its complex vibrations..."
New York Times - 09/26/1986
"...A stunningly beautiful film that holds your attention even while you feel slightly stunned....Rewards in burst after burst of beauty..."
Los Angeles Times - 12/22/1986
"...Tarkovsky creates some of the most piercingly beautiful images ever captured on film. He is also the most uncompromising of film makers..."
Set in Sweden, Andrei Tarkovsky's last film follows the travails of wealthy patriarch Alexander (Erland Josephson), a former actor and critic who lives in a remote home on the edge of the Baltic Sea. One year on his birthday, a sudden television announcement interrupts the celebration with news of a nuclear holocaust. His family and guests suffer through violent fits of hysteria and emotional turmoil in the ensuing days, but the previously troubled Alexander finds a clearness of mind when he makes a pact with God--offering himself as a sacrifice in order to redeem the fallen earth for his cherished son. Supremely poetic, THE SACRIFICE is filled with achingly beautiful images, expertly shot by Ingmar Bergman's trusted cinematographer Sven Nykvist. As Alexander goes from self-contented ease to crippling animal fear and existential anguish and finally to spiritual abandon, the troubled journey is illustrated with a haunting succession of images, tableaus, objects, dreams, and gestures--all sewn together in a seamlessly elliptical vision. As in all of Tarkovsky's haunting and mystical films, the characters are forced to come to terms with their own physical and spiritual existence, with redemption coming through faith--in this case, Alexander's faith in his love for his young son.
Russian director Andei Tarkovsky's final film is a meditation on humanity's profound faith, and how that faith is humanity's redemption. Set in Sweden, the film tells the tale of a man willing to die in order to save his family.
Shot in a widescreen process; its original aspect ratio was 1.66: 1.
Winner of the Special Grand Jury Prize at the 1987 New York Film Festival.
Dan Myhrman is a camera assistant on the film. In 1991, when cinematographer Sven Nykvist made his solo directing debut with "Oxen", Myrhman was his director of photography.
"The Sacrifice" is Andrei Tarkovsky's last completed project. The director was already dying during the shooting of the film, and succumbed to lung cancer in December of 1986, the same year it was released. The film's co-editor, Michal Leszczylowski, directed a documentary about Tarkovsky's difficult last days on the set, entitled "Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky" (Sweden, 1988).
Swedish Director Ingmar Bergman said of Tarkovsky: "My discovery of Tarkovsky's first film was like a miracle. Suddenly, I found myself standing at the door of a room the keys of which had, until then, never been given to me. It was a room I had always wanted to enter and where he was moving freely and fully at ease. I felt encouraged and stimulated: someone was expressing what I had always wanted to say without knowing how. Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream."
Andrei Tarkovsky on "The Sacrifice": "The issue I raise in this film is one that to my mind is most crucial: The absence in our culture of room for a spiritual existence. We have extended the scope of our material assets and conducted materialistic experiments without taking into account the threat posed by depriving man of his spiritual dimension. Man is suffering, but he doesn't know why. He senses an absence of harmony, and searches for the cause of it. "I wanted to show that a man can renew his ties to life by renewing his covenant with himself and with the source of his soul. And one way to recapture moral integrity -- the state in which one no longer simply contemplates the value of material things, or allows oneself to function merely as a subject for society's experimentation -- is by having the capacity to offer oneself in sacrifice." (Excerpt from an interview with Tarkovsky by Annie Epelboin in Paris, March 15, 1986)
The Kino DVD includes Michal Leszcylowski's documentary DIRECTED BY TARKOVSKY.