Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Sacrifice

Writes Gino Moliterno in Sense of Cinema: The last of what would turn out to be a mere handful of films by this major director, a relatively meagre opus which nevertheless houses some of the most remarkable and lyrical images to have ever been created on film, The Sacrifice (Offret sacrificatio) is undoubtedly Tarkovsky’s cinematic last will and testament. Completed when the director had already been diagnosed with terminal cancer, the film bears all the signs of being a sort of summa of all the familiar Tarkovskian themes and motifs and is, moreover, explicitly dedicated -”with hope and confidence”- to Tarkovsky’s young son, Andrejusja.

In his own comments about the film, in Sculpting in Time and elsewhere, Tarkovsky consistently characterized the film as a spiritual parable exemplifying the particularly Christian conception of self-sacrifice in the interests of community and in the name of a higher ideal And, in fact, it’s not difficult to read Alexander, the protagonist of The Sacrifice, as a further development of Domenico, the “holy fool”, who in Tarkovsky’s previous film, Nostalghia (1983) -and, significantly, played by the same actor, Erland Josephson- immolates himself by fire while intoning the Christian injunction to repentance and self-abnegation from the top of Rome’s Capitol Hill. Read this way, Alexander’s setting fire to his house at the end of The Sacrifice is merely another, and more symbolic, version of Domenico’s act of self-martyrdom in the service of a Christian ideal.
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