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British film poster
|Directed by||Andrei Tarkovskij|
|Produced by||Anna-Lena Wibom|
|Written by||Andrei Tarkovsky|
Guðrún S. Gísladóttir
|Music by||Johann Sebastian Bach
|Editing by||Andrei Tarkovsky
|Distributed by||Sandrew (Swedish theatrical)|
|Running time||149 minutes|
The film opens on the birthday of Alexander, an aging journalist, theater and literary critic, university lecturer on aesthetics, and former actor. He lives in a beautiful house with an actress wife (Adelaide), a teenage stepdaughter (Marta), and a "mute" young son (who is referred to as "Little Man"). Alexander and Little Man plant a tree, when Alexander's friend Otto, who also works part-time for the post office, delivers a birthday card to him. ("Many happy returns!") In the conversation, Alexander reveals that his relationship with God was "nonexistent". After Otto leaves, Adelaide and Victor--a medical doctor and a close family friend who recently performed a throat operation on "Little Man," which has left the boy unable to speak--arrive at the scene and offer to take Alexander and Little Man home in Victor's car. However, Alexander prefers to stay behind and "chats with" Little Man. In his "monologue", Alexander recounts how he and Adelaide found this beautiful house in the remote area by accident, and they fell in love with the house and surroundings at the first sight.
Back home, families and friends (Otto and Victor) gather in Alexander's beautiful house to celebrate his birthday. Their maid Maria leaves, while the nurse maid Julia stays to help with the dinner. People comment on Maria's odd appearances and behaviors. ("She scares me.") As the guests chat inside the house, where Otto reveals that he is a student of paranormal phenomena, a collector of "unexplainable but true incidences." Just when the dinner is almost ready, the rumbling noise of low flying jet fighters and a TV program announces the beginning of what appears to be all-out war, possibly a nuclear holocaust. In despair the protagonist vows to God to sacrifice all he loves ("I'll give Thee all I have, I'll give up my family, whom I love, I'll destroy my home and give up Little Man") if only this act of fate may be undone. Otto advises him to slip away and sleep with Alexander's maid Maria, whom Otto convinces him to be a witch, "in the best possible sense".
When he wakes up the next morning everything seems "normal", but whether Alexander dreamt the episode is never made explicit. Nevertheless, Alexander sets forth to give up all he loves and possesses. He tricks the family members and friends to a walk, sets fire to his cherished house. As the group rushes back, alarmed by the fire, Alexander confesses that he set the fire himself, running up and down furiously. Maria, who until then was not seen that morning, appears in the fire scene as Alexander tries to approach her but was restrained by others. Without an explanation, an ambulance appears in this very remote area and two paramedics chase Alexander, who "appears" to lose control of himself, and drive him off (perhaps to an institution). Maria bicycles away but stops halfway to observe Little Man watering the tree he and Alexander planted the day before. As Maria leaves the scene, the "mute" Little Man, lying at the foot of the tree, suddenly utters his only line in the entire film, quoting the opening of the Gospel of John: "In the beginning was the Word. Why is that, Papa?" as Johann Sebastian Bach's aria Erbarme dich, mein Gott, (Have Mercy, My God) from the St. Matthew Passion, which also opens the film, plays in the background.
This is the Synopsis according to the Cannes website:
"I wanted to show that one can resume life by restoring the union with oneself and by discovering a spiritual source. And to acquire this kind of moral autonomy, where one ceases to consider solely the material values, where one escapes from being the subject article of experimentation between the hands of society- a way- among others- is having the capacity to offer oneself in sacrifice."
It does not confirm whether it is a quote by Tarkovsky or not.
- Erland Josephson as Alexander
- Susan Fleetwood as Adelaide
- Allan Edwall as Otto
- Guðrún S. Gísladóttir as Maria
- Sven Wollter as Victor
- Valérie Mairesse as Julia
- Filippa Franzén as Marta
- Tommy Kjellqvist as Gossen (Little Man)
- Per Källman, Tommy Nordahl as ambulance drivers
- Johann Sebastian Bach
"Matthäus-Passion" Erbarme Dich
Wolfgang Gönnenwein (conductor) / Julia Hamari (alto)
EMI-Electrola GmbH LC 0233
- Watazumido-Shuso, Hotchiku flöjt (海童道祖 法竹)"
"Nezasa No Shirabe" (根笹調)
The Everest Records Group 3289
- "Locklåtar från Dalarna och Härjedalen"
Elin Lisslass, Karin Edvards Johansson, Tjugmyr Maria Larsson, o.a.
SR Records RELP 5017
The camera work is slow, containing the hallmarks of Tarkovsky and cinematographer Sven Nykvist. The film's soundtrack includes three distinct pieces: the passionate aria Erbarme dich from Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Matthew Passion, soothing Japanese flute music played by Watazumi Doso Roshi, and eerie traditional chants from the Swedish forests (in the old days farm girls used to call home the livestock from their forest pastures in this way). The film also contains several long closeups of Leonardo da Vinci's Adoration of the Magi.
The film uses long takes more often than in Tarkovsky's previous films. The opening, post-credits shot (a tracking shot of Alexander, Little Man, and Otto talking and walking) lasts nine minutes and twenty-six seconds, the longest single take in all of Tarkovsky's work. Shots lasting between six and eight minutes are commonplace in the film, and there are only 115 shots in the entire film.
Most of the film takes place inside or around a house specially built for the production. The climactic scene at the end of the film is a long tracking shot in which Alexander burns his house and his possessions. It was done in a single, six minute, fifty second take, often incorrectly identified as Tarkovsky's longest take. The shot was very difficult to achieve. Initially, there was only one camera used, despite Sven Nykvist's protest. While shooting the burning house, the camera jammed, ruining the footage. (This disaster is documented in documentary entitled Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky and the documentary One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich.)
The scene had to be reshot, requiring a quick and very costly reconstruction of the house in two weeks. This time, two cameras were set up on tracks, running parallel to each other. The footage in the final version of the film is the second take, which lasts for several minutes and ends abruptly because the camera had run through an entire reel in capturing the single shot. The cast and crew broke down in tears after the take was completed.
Relationship with Bergman
The film reflects Tarkovsky's respect for the Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman. It was set in Sweden on the island of Gotland, close to Fårö, where many of Bergman's films had been shot. Tarkovsky wanted to film it on Fårö, but was denied access by the military.
The cast included one of Bergman's most well known actors, Erland Josephson. The film's production designer, Anna Asp, had won an Academy Award for the sumptuous décor of Bergman's Fanny and Alexander. It was filmed by Bergman's favourite cinematographer Sven Nykvist. Additionally, one of Bergman's sons, Daniel Bergman, worked as a camera assistant.
- Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. Dir. Michal Leszczylowski. Perf. Brian Cox, Erland Josephson and Andrey Tarkovskiy. Svenska Filminstitutet (SFI), 1988.
- "Ingmar Bergman.com: Andrei Tarkovsky". ingmarbergman.se. Retrieved 2011-07-11.
- "Festival de Cannes: The Sacrifice". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
- The Sacrifice at the Internet Movie Database
- The Sacrifice at the Swedish Film Database
- DVDBeaver comparison of 5 different DVD editions of the film
- The Sacrifice at nostalghia.com
|Awards and achievements|
|Grand Prix Spécial du Jury, Cannes