The Sacrifice

Cast - Erland Josephson, Susan Fleetwood

Country of Origin - Russia

Director - Andrei Tarkovsky

Discs -2

MSRP - $39.95

Distributor - Kino

Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

The Film (5/5)

     The Sacrifice was the final film by Russian cinematic tour de force Andrei Tarkovsky.  I say this up front, because the essence of this bleeds through every frame of the film.  This is a film much like Derek Jarman's Blue that feels like it is made by a man who knows it is his last.  There is a deep forboding etheral sadness in every frame of the Sacrifice, along with a deep sense of spirituality.  Of course, that latter tended to permeate all of Tarkovsky's work from the very beginning, if his Solaris was the spiritual answer to 2001, then The Sacrifice is the spiritual response to Ingmar Bergman.

    I specify Bergman because the film is essentially Tarkovsky's homage to the Swedish master.  As the lead he cast Bergman regular Erland Josephson, he utilises Bergman's favored cinematographer Sven Nykvist, and he even attempted to shoot the film on the Island of Faro, but eventually due to military intervention had to shoot on an island near Bergman's beloved Faro.

    The film stars Josephson as Alexander, a married Father of 2 children Marta and Little Man.  The takes place on his birthday, and also the eve of Nuclear War.  As his party begins he is surrounded by friends and family, and then the announcement comes across the radio waves that nuclear war is going to start, and Alexander begins to experience visions.  In despair he visits the home of his housemaid, who his friend and postman Otto speculates is a witch.  When that does nothing, he turns to God, and offers everything he has in a sacrifice to the almighty. 

     The Sacrifice plays one part Bergman homage, mixed with some of the delirium of a David Lynch movie, and the power, beauty, and spirituality that is at the forefront of Tarkovsky's cinema. I like to see the character of Alexander as a Tarkovsky cypher, a man who is the pillar of his family and community brought down by an oncoming tragedy and looking for a return to the normality of time's past.

     The Sacrifice courtesy of the direction by Tarkovsky coupled with the cinematography of Nykvist falls into the category of movies where each frame is so beautiful you could practically pause the film at any point, print the image and stick it on the wall in a museum.  Which brings me to another of my feelings of the film.  The look of the film it starts out with some semblance of color in the frame, but as the tragedy begins to unfold, color begins to dwindle from the frame leaving this almost classic photograph look to the image.  This gave me the feeling that these frames were like images from a photo album, taken in some distant cold war past, and we are seeing them come to life as cinema.  Granted, I doubt it was Tarkovsky's intention, but that is what I personally took away from it.

     The performances offer a feeling of intense desperation, and much like Bergman's trilogy of early 60's Chamber dramas (Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, The Silence) that The Sacrifice takes its primary influence from, it's the characters and their interactions and performances that really keep the viewer watching.  It's sad to think that cinema lost such a profoundly great director after only a handful of films, but watching The Sacrifice as a coda to Tarkovsky's filmography one of the greatest achievements of the film is how it seems to tie together the various themes and issues Tarkovsky used throughout his career into one gorgeous cinematic package.


Audio/Video (4/5)

    Kino has really become one of the greatest restoration companies in HD, and the Sacrifice BD just adds to the roster of great work done to great films, and while it is not exactly a perfect transfer the sheer clarity of this 1:66:1 1080p will definitely stun the Tarkovsky faithful.  There is a tad bit of film grain, colors are good, and flesh tones are accurate.  The only negative is that there appears to be some DNR applied which takes some of the natural film like texture away, and leaves a slightly slicker image.

      The audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 Swedish track.  The track is fairly good throughout, dialogue is clean and clear throughout, and music and effects are balanced well.  There are some minor audio imperfections on the track, but they are rare, and do not take away from the track as a whole.


The Extras (4/5)

     While there is not a lot of exclusive information pertaining to the Sacrifice on this BD set.  Kino has seen hit to include the wonderful documentary Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky on the 2nd disc of the set.  The film is 97 minutes in length, and covers Tarkovsky's whole filmography, although it does contain some great segments on the Sacrifice, which include Tarkovsky working on the film.  Aside from that there is a still gallery, and trailers for other Kino releases.



     The Sacrifice is the 2nd Tarkovsky to make it to Blu-ray (right behind my favorite Solaris!).  The image is gorgeous, and for the price of one film you 2 with the companion documentary Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.  If you are a fan of beautiful, thinking man's cinema than this film comes Highly Recommended.