A case nr. 285 - Sacrifice

"Sacrifice", written and directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.

The frame above starts the key shot in "Sacrifice." In a moment the camera will pan down and reveal a miniature of the house behind Alexander’s head. The sudden change of perspective and scale produces an unnerving, dizzying feeling. It is as if we were suddenly catapulted over the real house.

Alexander is perplexed. Maria (the one that, as we learn later, has magical powers, and who is the only one capable of reversing the time) explains that the model was done by the Boy and Otto as a gift for Alexander, “but don’t give me away, Mr. Alexander.”

The Boy and Otto make a strange pair: the opening scene has them already together, literally circling Alexander. The Boy is the innocence, openness and the future personified, Otto is the messenger from “the other side”, fittingly he works as a postman (!) and is the only character who understands and to some degree controls the link with the other reality, the reality that causes strange, paranormal occurrences in our world. Otto collects them: to date he’s got 284 cases.

With the camera tilt down, the case number 285 has just begun its course, even thought Alexander does not know it. Neither does Otto but luckily for us all he figures it out just in time. Maria, although possessing the magical force, does not know what’s going on.

Such is the set up on this planet: there are those who understand but are not able to produce physical results, and there are those who can make things happen but need help in knowing when and with whom (and to whom?) to apply their force. In between these two groups there are mere mortals, the semi blind Alexanders, who, according to Tarkovsky, need to make an offering of what’s the dearest to them to keep calamities at bay. Such action proves their highest humanity. Hmmm. Being a “good nietzschean”, as my friend Alan Rosenberg from “Light Denied” would say, I am not crazy about such an interpretation, nevertheless the film's directorial brilliance is awe inducing.

So with the shot above the alchemical spectacle of the sacrifice begins: immediately afterwards a nuclear war starts, as if to trigger the transformation of the hero. To save everybody Alexander has to embark on a journey to conquer time.

Later: on Tarkovsky’s eternal return.

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