The Sacrifice (Offret) (Andreï Tarkovsky, 1986)
The final film of Andreï Tarkovsky, Offret is his most obvious attempt at making a film like his idol : Ingmar Bergman. The comparison with the Swedish master will be aborded later in this review, but that fact diluate the value of the work of Tarkovsky in this film. His signature, of superb cinematography and philosophical plots of spirituality are present but so bergmanian in their execution that it fades his personality as a creator.
Alexander (Erland Josefson), an intellectual faces the possible end of times when on his birthday a potential nuclear war is announced. In his house in Sweden guests are the doctor who operated his mute son, his wife, the postman, a servant, and his mute son. Filled with extensive dialogues on spirituality, symbolism, and redemption The Sacrifice looks like a pastiche of Bergman films made by a very talented admirer.
Getting back to this fact, the setting and the language of the story, Sweden, the presence of Josefson, one of Bergman’s favorite actor, the cinematography by his long time collaborator Sven Nykvist are few of the obvious links with Ingmar Bergman.
Then, there are the spiritual dialogues and paraboles cited by Alexander like his monologue on the little man who watered his tree for days, months, and even years to have it one day bloomed. It is his logical of a system. He needs one to understand the order and control the chaos. It is this order that gets carried away when the war or menace arises.
With all that said, The Sacrifice is still a beautifully shot and very interesting film. A great film in fact but not Tarkovsky’s masterpiece. The house that almost all the action takes place has been built just for the film and they had to rebuild it because the final shot had to be done twice. It is one of the films from Tarkovsky that has the longest shots and very few editing is used. Scenes go on and on without any montage and it must have been a very tiresome shooting for the crew.
The fact that Tarkovsky died not long after the film was finished made this more special just like Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shot. Another director that died too young and let us wonder how many films he still had in him if he lived longer. But I digress.
Being his final film and the last that I had to watch from his filmography it is a little bit sad because Tarkovsky has been one of my favorite directors since I began to watch more serious films and they were kind of the basis of my cinephile background. Starting with Andrei Rublev and Solaris I had to watch thereafter Ivan’s Childhood and Nostalghia but it took me a while to get recently to Stalker and The Sacrifice. It is an artist that every cinephile must past through sometime but it is so worth the time.