Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Sacrifice

THE SACRIFICE (Offret, Sweden 1986)
Pacific Cinematheque
Thursday, December 28, 9pm
Saturday, December 30, 7pm

This one stunned me when I saw it twenty years ago at the Ridge. Don't go bored, don't go tired, don't go expecting a lot of action or story. Don't read about the film in advance: so little happens narratively, the filmmaker's great strategy is to keep us "leaning in to the film," our minds whirring with questions as the camera and the story move ever-so-slowly, ever-so-elegantly. Think of it as a moving picture more than a filmed story: there's event there, even (I found) almost unbearable dramatic tension - but it's constructed subtly, with the sparsest of materials. You're better to go in tabula rasa and let Tarkovsky have his way with you.

Even the Cintematheque blurb says too much for my liking: here's an edited bit from their blurb that shouldn't wreck anything...
"Tarkovsky is for me the greatest," Ingmar Bergman once said. Tarkovsky's devastating final film — "a Faust for the nuclear age" (David Parkinson) — was made in Sweden with several regular members of Bergman's team, including cinematographer Sven Nykvist and actor Erland Josephson. Described by Tarkovsky as a meditation on "the absence in our culture of room for spiritual experience," the film is set on an isolated island, where Alexander (Josephson), a distinguished man of letters, lives in seemingly idyllic semi-retirement. The apple of his eye is his young son Little Man, who represents for him the great hope of the future. …

Photographed in ethereal northern light, and opening and closing with two of cinema's most breathtaking single-take sequence shots, The Sacrifice is a masterful, elegant film of great formal rigour and intensity. Tarkovsky supervised its editing from his hospital bed; he died of cancer in December 1986. "No one else can approach his sense of the Apocalyptic. His death leaves a gaping hole in the cinema of spiritual quest" (Chris Peachment). Colour and B&W, 35mm, in Swedish with English subtitles. 145 mins.
Because the film is so intensely visual, and because the film is so purely cinematic, telling its story almost entirely in image, the opportunity to see this on the big screen is one to be seized. (If only it were at the VIFC, where the seats are comfier!)

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