The Sacrifice (1986)

The Sacrifice (1986)

In his final film, Andrei Tarkovsky contemplates the end of the world in this meditative modern twist to the Sacrifice of Isaac

The Very Best

8.1

Movie

France, Sweden
English, French, Icelandic
Drama
1986
ANDREI TARKOVSKY
Allan Edwall, Erland Josephson, Guðrún Gísladóttir
149 min

TLDR

It's terrifying how the themes still resonate today.

What it's about

On his birthday celebration, journalist, philosopher, and former actor Alexander receives news that the end of the world is near when World War III has erupted. In order to stop it, Alexander makes a bargain with God: he’ll give up everything he values in life, including his beloved son.

The take

The end of the world, of course, forces people to contemplate one’s life purpose, the choices they made, and the opportunities they chose over others. Andrei Tarkovsky examines this idea in The Sacrifice– juxtaposing a hypothetical third World War with main character Alexander’s choices, the choices that led him to a successful acting career, but also led him to regret that he hasn’t done more to take action, until the deal he made with a cross between the Christian God and pagan sacrifice. The ideas are philosophically heavy, marked with Tarkovsky’s dreamlike imagery, long takes, and slow pacing, but it feels much more personal considering the sacrifice he made in leaving his family to create his last two films abroad. The Sacrifice is a masterful meditation on life itself, a deeply moving anti-war film that was a decent send-off of one of the greatest filmmakers ever to have existed.

What stands out

Every single moment feels like it’s holding multiple ideas all at once– not just fears about nuclear fallout, but anxieties over art and its purpose, the pain of losing people we hold dear, and faith that the sacrifice is all worth it, somehow. It’s actually insane how much each moment holds.

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