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Go out with you? Why not... Do I like to dance? Of course! Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to. But don't try to touch me. Don't try to touch me. Because that will never happen again. "Past, Present and Future"-The Shangri-Las

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Things are less hectic than they seemed, so a few jottings on Tarkovsky's Sacrifice (Decades-old Spoiler Warning!)

I'm still wrestling with the fact that God's healing power manifests through an adulterous act. That's not hard to reconcile if one isn't wedded to the rigorous laws of sexual purity that are part and parcel of the Christianity I know, but perhaps Tarkovsky's beliefs (which I've read were Christian) were less indebted to such rules. He's obviously of a more mystical frame of mind. Maybe it's a Russian Orthodox thing. As a Unitarian I'm surprised that the adultery thing should be as big a snag for me as it is. I've skimmed a few online commentaries on the film, and no one else even mentions it.

Outside of a Christian-law context, though, it makes perfect sense. Sexuality brings us closer to an all-embracing sense of a power and a joy beyond ourselves. The scene in question would be hard to describe to someone else without making it sound corny beyond words; they embrace and actually levitate off the bed and slowly spin in the air? It's like an R-rated '30s musical. But when it happened it seemed so right; I don't think I've ever seen a sex scene that got so close to the real experience before.

I'm still thinking about that picture of Leonardo's Adoration of the Magi, always shown with the glass reflecting the characters who are observing it; I'm also puzzling on the archaic map's significance. I don't want to jump to any facile English-class symbol-hunting, though. I may need to watch the film again to put the pieces together.

1 comment:

Diane said...

Nice comments, Aaron. Now that you've seen the movie, I will say that The Sacrifice is not one of my favorite Tarko films, and when I saw it a couple of years ago, I had problems with it. Like you, my biggest problem was with the adultery, and I guess I had the tendency to take things too literally. There was part of me that said, "Oh, gee, how hard is that? He can fix things by conveniently sleeping with a woman." Of course, I'm sure there's more to it than that, but I'll admit that I haven't figured it out. :) There's just no way I can believe Tarko was simply advocating adultery or free love or whatever. I also seem to recall the sex scene as being rather uncomfortable for the characters, especially at first. But all this to say that the film frustrated and confused me, so I appreciate a chance to talk it over.

I have a couple of Tarkovksy books at home (one being a collection of interviews with him), and he said he felt sex was so private and personal that it shouldn't be filmed. Instead, he represented it by levitation. The "levitating lovers" theme is pretty common in his films. There's a scene in Solaris where he uses that trick to create a moment of incredible beauty that's emotionally powerful. But in that case, it doesn't come as such a shock to viewers because the film also gives a reason as to why it happens--there's a moment of zero gravity. In later films, Tarkovsky had it happen with no apparent reason or logic behind it whatsoever--very bold.

I'm on a film listserv with a thoughtful college prof who watched The Sacrifice a while back and then shared his thoughts. If you're interested, shoot me an email and I'll see if I can dig up his messages and send them to you.