By John P. McCarthy
Catholic News Service
A remastered edition of Russian auteur Andrei Tarkovsky’s final movie, “The Sacrifice,” has arrived on DVD from Kino International, a quarter-century after its theatrical release.
Tarkovsky defected from the Soviet Union two years before making the Swedish-language film, which was shot by one of Ingmar Bergman’s great collaborators, cinematographer Sven Nykvist. During the editing process, Tarkovsky was diagnosed with lung cancer, and he died within a year at age 54.
It’s difficult to imagine a more fitting swan song. A deeply personal yet universal work, both elegiac and forward-looking, “The Sacrifice” depicts a faith journey and, specifically, an intellectual’s response to sin, fear and despair.
Emblematic of Tarkovsky’s small but significant oeuvre, the parable also evokes Shakespeare, Chekhov and Bergman. In fact, on first encountering its slow, ritualistic pacing, you’re tempted to dismiss it as a parody of one of Bergman’s bleaker films.
Gradually, however, its tight structure and incisive hopefulness emerge. “The Sacrifice” has humor and heft, tension and tenderness. Farcical moments depressurize the atmosphere of existential terror while keeping self-seriousness and pretension at bay.
A sympathetic protagonist, subtly played by Bergman regular Erland Josephson, is essential to the drama’s success. Continue reading
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