Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

The Sacrifice (1986)

By Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 25, 2023 | In Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast

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Andrei Tarkovsky’s final film, The Sacrifice, is a deeply personal work, made while the director was dying of cancer. It deals, in Tarkovsky’s words, with “the theme of harmony which is born only of sacrifice, the twofold dependence of love. It’s not a question of mutual love: what nobody seems to understand is that love can only be one-sided, that no other love exists, that in any other form it is not love. If it involves less than total giving, it is not love.” For this reason, perhaps, it was included in the 1995 Vatican film list, in the category of Religion.

To put it simply, the film’s protagonist, a middle-aged Swedish man, realizes that he must make a sacrifice to God in order to avert the onset of nuclear war. In its concrete plot, The Sacrifice is rather mysterious and surreal. Yet even if it doesn’t totally work as a literal story, its themes of love, faith, fatherhood, and the dire spiritual situation of modern man are handled economically and intelligibly. Still, guest host Nathan Douglas suggests that The Sacrifice should not be the first film you watch by Tarkovsky—perhaps it should even be saved for last.

Letterboxd review mentioned in discussion

Behind-the-scenes footage from the house-burning scene (1:13:39-1:27:00)

Music is The Duskwhales, “Take It Back”, used with permission.

Criteria is hosted by Thomas V. Mirus and James T. Majewski.

Thomas is Director of Podcasts for and hosts the Catholic Culture Podcast. See full bio.

James is the Director of Customer Relations for as well as the host and narrator for Catholic Culture Audiobooks. See full bio.

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