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The Sacrifice
Movie Poster for Carl Theodor Dreyer's Ordet
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Produced by Anna Lena-Wibom
Written by Andrei Tarkovsky
Music by Johann Sebastian Bach
Watazumi Doso (no IMDb)
Cinematography by Sven Nykvist
Editing by Andrei Tarkovsky
Michal Leszczylowski
Release Date 1986
Running Time 145 min.
Language Swedish, French, English
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The Sacrifice
(Offret-Sacrificatio)

Andrei Tarkovsky's paints The Sacrifice with Ingmar Bergman's palette. The location, language, actors, and themes are familiar enough to those familiar with Bergman’s work, but something is askew, the way a dream might blend Shame (1968) and The "Faith Trilogy" into a baroque stage play about an ethereal Cold War nightmare. 

Alexander (Erland Josephson) and his family are on a remote Swedish Island at the moment the world launches into nuclear war. Alexander begs God to spare humanity and, in exchange, he will sleep with a witch and burn all his worldly belongings. Somehow, the plot is not nearly as fantastic as the film's aesthetic.  

Only Tarkovsky could create an Armageddon as placid, patient, and terrifying as this one.  

Tarkovsky's mysticism is matched by Sven Nykvist's perfect cinematography. The opening nine-plus minute uncut scene is breathtakingly beautiful and transcendent. The film's climax is as intoxicating as any ever captured to film (ironic, given the history of that particular shot). And all of it is enveloped in an unyielding desaturated twilight, the sort of subdued silver light that should mark the end of creation. The Sacrifice is, like so much of Tarkovsky's work, a film that trades terrestrial rules for a glimpse of a spiritual realm. 

—Joseph J.P. Johnson

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