Cinefamily Series: Making Ofs...
Andrei Tarkovsky's 'The Sacrifice'
Andrei Tarkovsky's final film is yet another of his beautifully absorbing and hypnotic portraits of madness. As aging philopsopher Alexander meets with friends at his house on the misty plains of rural Sweden, the radio announces WWIII is at hand. As an appeasement to God, Alex offers his own voice and sanity (among his other possessions) in exchange for sparing life on Earth -- and when the Bomb doesn't drop, what is he to do? Show-stopping cinematography from frequent Bergman collaborator Sven Nykvist (including the most incredibly realistic "sun-lit" soundstage interiors since Stanley Kubrick's The Shining) and epic sound design here take a remarkable backseat to Tarkovsky's masterful deployment of near-imperceptible legerdemain: once life continues as "normal," every subtle re-placement of items and people in the frame throws into question, a la Solaris, the rapidly crumbling sanity of an old soul already given to questioning the world around him. Containing a stylistic summation of all his auteurly ideals, hopes and dreams up to that point, The Sacrifice is Tarkovsky's graceful swan song, painfully hinting at the remainder of a career that was not to be.
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky -
It's already a true mental strain to field-marshal a feature film, what with the attendant chaos, misfires, endless questions and minute-by-minute logistical shifts -- but can you imagine undertaking such a thing while also succumbing to cancer? That's what faced the poet laureate of Russian cinema, Andrei Tarkovsky, as he made his final work, The Sacrifice. That film's editor, Michal Leszczykowski, shot this emotional peek into the creative process of a filmmaker seldom documented on film himself. As we gaze upon Tarkovsky's unending obsession with translating his every last visionary detail onto the screen, we also hear narrated excerpts of his massively influential book on film theory, "Sculpting In Time," deeply empathize with his physical condition -- and feel the crushing heartbreak of exactly what happens when a director must scrape to shoot for a second time his one-chance-and-that's-it ten-minute single-take finale. An intense look at an even more intense film artist.
Dir. Michal Leszczylowski, 1988, 35mm, 102 min.