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The Sacrifice
The Sacrifice
Actors: Erland Josephson, Susan Fleetwood, Brian Cox, Andrei Tarkovsky, Tommy Kjellqvist
Directors: Andrei Tarkovsky, Michal Leszczylowski
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
PG     2000     4hr 6min

Alexander, a journalist and former actor and philosopher, tells his little son how worried he is about the lack of spirituality of modern mankind. In the night of his birthday, the third world war breaks out. In his despai...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Erland Josephson, Susan Fleetwood, Brian Cox, Andrei Tarkovsky, Tommy Kjellqvist
Directors: Andrei Tarkovsky, Michal Leszczylowski
Creators: Andrei Tarkovsky, Arne Carlsson, Sven Nykvist, Michal Leszczylowski, Anna-Lena Wibom, Lisbet Gabrielsson
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Religion
Studio: Kino Video
Format: DVD - Color,Letterboxed - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 03/07/2000
Release Year: 2000
Run Time: 4hr 6min
Screens: Color,Letterboxed
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 10
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Subtitles: English
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Movie Reviews

Toshifumi Fujiwara | Tokyo, Japan | 09/05/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"THE SACRIFICE is a true work of art. It is probably the most beautiful film by the cinematic poet Andrey Tarkovsky. It is also the most accessible among his works: unlike his films prior to this one, the plot of THE SACRIFICE itself is quite simple and easy to catch. A retired actor- journalist-author (some kind of an intellectual superman) hero living in a beautiful sea-shore house suddenly faces the end of the world: a nuclear war. What can he do to stop it? He prays to God, he who never believed in God before, and offers himself to be the sacrifice for saving the world as he knows, a world which for the first time, he realises how much he loves it.The plot is simple, but its implication is complex. One who believes in God and the absolute love he represents can see this as a story of miracle. An atheist can see this as all being a hallucination of a repressed old man. Tarkovsky makes the film in a way that you can interpret it in whatever way you want. But in whichever way you see it, the film will lead you to our fundamental question; why we live? What is the meaning of our life? How we can achieve the state in which we can say when we face eternity, "I understood the meaning of my life and I fulfilled it"?THE SACRIFICE was shot beautifully by cinematographer Sven Nykvist, one of the greatest master in the art of creating filmic images, whose talent is perfectly in match with Tarkovsky's narrative strategy of filling the frame with symbolism that the audience can interpret in what ever way he/her wants. The disappointment with this rather expensive DVD is that, the transfer fails to catch the richness of Nykvist's work, and in the case of this particular film, it really hurts because it prevent you to create your own interpretation from what the film shows. The nature plays a big role in the story, and already at the very beginning, you cannot feel the richness of the green grass by the sea, the mystery of the trees surrounding the house. Later in the film you miss the richness of the shadows, the complex texture that the lights and shadows create on a simple wall, the subtle reflection on a framed painting (a study of the Madonna by Da Vinci). It actually looks like it was made from a video tape. The yellow subtitles are also build in the images, it's not an optional subtitling and you cannot erase it. I suggest you wait for a few years if you have already seen the film, then maybe KINO will come up with a better DVD. But if you have never seen it, well... it's a must-see film."
Thought-provoking film; great-looking DVD!
hakob | Las Vegas, NV | 03/14/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Kino on Video should be proud of their work releasing Tarkovsky's THE MIRROR and THE SACRIFICE on DVD. The DVD of THE SACRIFICE looks markedly superior to any version of the film available on home video. Doing a direct comparison with the old Image laserdisc, I was struck by how much better the DVD captured the film's subtle gradations of light and color, how it revealed details in the set design which I had never noticed before. For Tarkovsky this is all-important. In addition, the DVD includes a feature-length documentary on Tarkovsky which says a great deal about his working methods as a director and his thoughts on the cinema in general. If you have any interest in Tarkovsky or in film as an art form, the DVD is recommended.This is not to say that the film itself is perfect. I strongly believe that Tarkovsky's last two films, made in Europe (the other was the Italian co-production NOSTALGHIA), are distinctly inferior to his Russian films, especially his masterpieces ANDREI RUBLEV and THE MIRROR. The same stunning imagery is there, and there are a number of truly great moments; THE SACRIFICE has two celebrated l0-minute takes--the tree-planting and house-burning scenes--which push the cinema about as far as it can go. But there is also a certain preachiness and an implicit sense that the film is Great Art, so therefore you must sit quietly and pay attention to everything it has to tell you. Many of Alexander's speeches sound suspiciously like the more didactic moments in Tarkovsky's book-length essay SCULPTING IN TIME. Since it's Tarkovsky, I'm willing to listen--when I'm in the right mood--but not without a murmur of protest. His contemporary Sergei Paradjanov managed to be playful and profound at the same time, so I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. There is an underlying fundamental lack of vitality here compared to his Russian films. (Yes, I'm aware that Tarkovsky was dying of cancer when he made the film). However, under the right conditions I've found THE SACRIFICE to be a mesmerizing experience. I do urge you to see it."
Are you tough enough?
Daniel Suggit | Darwin, Australia | 08/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I read a number of the reviews on this film and felt the need to respond to the dismissive ones.

Tarkovsky's films - for me The Sacrifice and Andrei Rublev are his crowning achievements (with Ivan's Childhood as the shortest and most accessible of his great films)- these films should be recognised as some of the most important works within any medium of art in the last century.

So, if you want to watch a film to escape, to entertain, to work as background music to re-runs of your own psychic heritage, it is NOT advisable to get this one out one tired evening.

Watching Tarko is hard work - principally aesthetic, emotional, spiritual and creative work for the individual viewer. All great art transforms our relationship with the world, and I would argue that this sort of transformation is never crucially an intellectual change. We may be confronted with ideas through Art but it is their broader resonance within our whole humanity that is the key to Art's power and importance.

I have seen The Sacrifice five times over the last 15 or so years. At the beginning of the film there is the question "what is your relationship with god?"

The film for me is the most personal, honest and often uncomfortable (nightmarish?) contemporary meditation on this single question. [For those fellow T-freaks out there the Director himself fronts up to this theme within the "Making of The Sacrifice" documentary - it is especially poignant in the knowledge of his approaching early death soon after the release of this film].

All I can say to viewers out there that think that Tarko is just another foreign film-maker dealing in dark, overly-intellectual and pretentious symbolic imagery for mass consumption by arts students, well... I dare you to be completely open to the film.

p.s. forget looking for the beginning, middle and end - that western over-obsession with narrative - the line of thought that tells the audience when to cry, clap or stand-up at the "end." Yes, forget for once a focus on events - instead, look, listen, taste, touch and smell that thing the English language calls Art.

Are you tough enough?"
Larry L. Looney | Austin, Texas USA | 09/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"...that seems to be the opinion of some reviewers. This film - Tarkovsky's final work - is certainly more accessible than his others, more straightforward in its storytelling...but there's a lot of wonderful elements involved, and it certainly doesn't deserve to be relegated to the 'minor works' category. Other reviewers have also drawn comparisons between this film and the work of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman - there is some of Bergman's 'look' to the film, perhaps because Tarkovsky chose to work with Sven Nykvist, who worked on several of Bergman's films. Even with this 'Bergmanesque' presence, this is definitely Tarkovsky's film - and if it's more accessible than some of his other works, perhaps it's a good place for someone who is unfamiliar with his work to start.Several of Tarkovsky's favorite themes are present in SACRIFICE - alienation, an aching emptiness of the spirit, the slighting of nature by mankind. Erland Josephson portrays Alexander, a wealthy, semi-retired writer who lives with his wife, teenage daughter and 'Little Man', his young son, in a lovely house that sits rather isolated on the seaside in Sweden. His young son is obviously his favorite, the center of his soul and existence. We see him with the little boy, planting a tree, telling him a story about devotion to duty involving a young Japanese monk and his master.Alexander's birthday is at hand, and his family, along with a couple of friends, makes ready to celebrate. As the group awaits dinner to be served, there is a roaring - like a low-flying jet - in the sky, followed by what appears at first to be a mild earthquake. A ceramic milk pitcher vibrates its way off a shelf, shattering on the floor - news broadcasts on the television indicate that World War III has begun. Each of the characters reacts in their own way - Alexander's wife falls to pieces and requires a sedative from their friend Victor, a doctor. Alexander is shaken as well - but he's not sure what to do. He has lost his faith several years before, and yet he finds himself begging God to reverse the horrible events unfolding on the television screen. In one of the film's most poignant moments, we see him drained of strength, falling on his knees, barely able to speak, praying with all his might. He attempts to 'strike a bargain' with God, offering to give up everything - his home, his belongings, his family...even Little Man, his beloved son, if the world can be 'put back like it was before'.In a conversation with his friend Otto, the postman, Alexander learns of Otto's suspicion that Maria, one of Alexander's servant girls, is a witch - and Otto suggests that if Alexander goes to Maria and sleeps with her, she has the power to reverse the horrible events. In his desperation, Alexander succumbs to Otto's suggestion - he never voices his request to Maria, but she sees the pain in his eyes (and in his actions) and takes him to her bed in an attempt, I think, simply to comfort him. This scene - like lovemaking scenes in all of Tarkovsky's films, when they occur - is photographed beautifully and tastefully. Tarkovsky never stooped to gratuitous or graphic sex or nudity. We see the couple lie down, embrace - and levitate, floating gently into the air, a lovely, tender visual rendition of the healing power of love.You'll have to see the film in order to find out if Alexander's efforts - in either theatre - are rewarded. I don't want to spoil anything for the potential viewer. Suffice to say that even as the film ends, the viewer is left with as many questions as answers - and that's one of the things I find so stimulating and rewarding about Tarkovsky's work. I can't give anything I've seen by this director less than five stars - and while this might not be quite on the same levels as his other films, it's still head and shoulders above the commercial films coming out of the major studios."