Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Sacrifice (Offret)

Made in 1986, this is the final film by Andrei Tarkovsky. It was made whilst he was dying of cancer and died shortly after the making. This was filmed outside of the Soviet Union, in Sweden, home to one of his most admired directors, Bergman. 

The film takes place hours before a nuclear catastrophic event -- World War III. The protagonist is relaxing in a field with his son refered to as "Little man", joking around with him, and also venting his philosophical qualms (the lack of spirituality in modern manking) as the child plays in the grass. Those not familiar with Tarkovsky's films would find it slow, boring, and difficult. 

What is strange, is there's this working class man -- the 'friend' -- and the university professor (the main character) discussing Nietzsche and other modern philosophers, whilst the working class guy randomly circles around on his bike, as if in a lucid dream.

The man makes a prayer to God, saying he'll leave (sacrifice) all he has if the war ends/never happens. Perhaps it was all a dream? One of the real disasters in the film was a major camera breakdown, resulting in one very important shot going to waste. If you pick up the DVD, you'll get another disc with a documentary on Tarkovsky, and the filming of The Sacrifice.

Whilst preferring the atmospheric nature of Tarkovsky's post-apocalyptic Stalker I found The Sacrifice stunningly beautiful. There are extremely long shots in the film, one being over nine minutes. The use of imagery is varied against a rural Swedish setting, but a careful eye is required to notice the shifting from colour to black and white -- a style Tarkovsky had used in other films. The natural flowing of the character's placement on set, the stories the post-man has, the way the family interacts, and isolates itself from each other -- it all flows into a gorgeous work of art, with such careful symbolism throughout.

Tarkovsky is not a very accessible "entertaining" film-maker (he claimed that films set out to entertain insult him); some viewers claim his work makes a great demand on the viewer's attention span, but surely there are other ways to depict disaster other than explosions?

This film allows us to see into the soul of Tarkovsky. The music from Bach, Japanese flute, Swedish traditional songs, and the essential rich philosophical dialogue is just as unforgettable as the imagery. Tarkovsky's work on the screen seemed such a natural, beautiful form of art and for that, unlike many others that found The Sacrifice upsetting and left the cinema in '86 with tears, I'm upset because there will be no one like Tarkovsky.

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