Reviews & Columns
International DVDs
In Theaters
Reviews by Studio
Video Games

Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Anime Talk
DVD Savant
Horror DVDs
The M.O.D. Squad
Art House
HD Talk
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum

DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info


Sacrifice: Special Edition, The

Kino // Unrated // May 15, 2018
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted May 9, 2018 | E-mail the Author

It's impossible to write about Andrei Tarkovsky's final film The Sacrifice (1986) without mentioning the earlier one that eventually killed him. Made just seven years prior, Stalker -- which was nearly abandoned after a year's worth of footage was improperly developed -- was filmed near a Russian chemical plant that likely gave Tarkovsky lung cancer, along with actor Anatoly Solonitsyn (d. 1982) and the director's second wife Larisa (d. 1998). Tarkovsky, already in bad health before The Sacrifice wrapped, got the diagnosis in December 1985 and worked with co-editor Michal Leszczylowski to ensure it was finished properly. He'd be dead within 12 months, leaving a legacy of seven films in just under 25 years.

Truly a bleak way to start us off...but given The Sacrifice's grim subject matter, it's not exactly inappropriate. Like many of the director's previous films, however, subject matter runs a distant third behind artistic visuals and meditative rhythm. Those familiar with the likes of Solaris, Mirror, Andrei Rublev, and the like will understand that watching a Tarkovsky film is like watching a beautiful painting dry: strangely hypnotic at times, but a real test of patience.

Our story follows Alexander (Erland Josephson), whose birthday is interrupted by the threat of nuclear war. The ex-actor and his wife Adelaide (Susan Fleetwood), who live in the quiet countryside with their son "Little Man" (Tommy Kjellqvist) and adult stepdaughter Marta (Filippa Franzen), are joined by several others for both events: nurse-maid Julia (Valerie Mairesse), postman Otto (Allan Edwall), housekeeper Maria (Gudun S. Gisladottir), and Alexander's son-in-law Victor (Sven Wollter), the doctor who performed a throat operation on "Little Man" that has rendered him temporarily mute. Once the party is interrupted by a jet flyover and the abrupt news of a potential war, things predictably devolve into chaos. Alexander's behavior is affected the most: within 24 hours, he'll promise to sacrifice anything to stop the approaching war, experience at least one foreboding vision, get talked into sleeping with a witch, and attempt suicide.

As erratic but linear as its plot appears on paper, The Sacrifice is anything but a straightforward film about impending doom and paranoia. The dialogue, as with many of Tarkovsky's films, is a mishmash of potent observations, half-truths, absurdity, and more than a few dead-ends. Its driving forces are unquestionably the music (mixing together classical Bach pieces and work by Japanese musician Watazumido-Shuso) and cinematography, a collaboration between Tarkovsky and noted cinematographer Sven Nykvist (Fanny and Alexander, The Unbearable Lightness of Being) that's consistently mesmerizing even during the ugliest moments. Its somber musings on death and mortality, though somewhat softened by an ultimately uplifting message, give the film a few obvious parallels with the director's own spiraling health that certainly work in its favor. Still, The Sacrifice lacks the clear power and wandering interest expressed in films like The Mirror and Stalker, even though it's a experience that still rewards patient viewers in a uniquely obscure way.

This does not make The Sacrifice an ideal candidate for Tarkovsky beginners (start with Stalker or Ivan's Childhood), but those already keen on its charms will appreciate Kino's new Special Edition Blu-ray. Though it seems like a less impressive title than the studio's own 2001 Remastered Blu-ray, this is a clear upgrade in almost every department: in addition to an outstanding (but not quite perfect) 4K-sourced restoration of the original negative and a nice packaging job, we also get a pair of valuable new extras that peek further behind the curtain without spoiling every bit of mystique.

Presented in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, this new 4K-sourced 1080p transfer of The Sacrifice objectively looks fantastic from start to finish and represents a substantial jump in quality from Kino's 2011 Remastered Blu-ray. First, one minor complaint: the obvious green/cyan push of the film's color palette is questionable at the very least -- so many recent Blu-rays have gone with this color shift that it feels more like a trend than a commitment to accuracy. But aside from that, it's all good news here: black levels are much more consistent than the past release, image detail and textures are improved, and the film's dense grain structure is represented perfectly well from start to finish; the result is an extremely clean, natural, and crisp appearance. No obvious digital imperfections or manipulation (compression artifacts, excessive noise reduction, etc.) could be spotted along the way, either. Simply put, The Sacrifice is a great-looking film and it's never looked better on home video. Only the possible color palette issue keeps it from earning a perfect score.

DISCLAIMER: The promotional stills and screen captures on this page are decorative and do not represent the title under review.

There's less to say about the original Swedish PCM 1.0 track, aside from that it presents as convincing an atmosphere as possible for a one-channel presentation. Dialogue, background effects, and the sparse but very memorable score (which combines classical Bach pieces with work by Japanese musician Watazumido-Shuso) are crisp and clear without fighting for attention, while the overall experience showcases many moments of depth at times. The low end is actually quite strong for a track with no dedicated subwoofer channel, which gives an appropriate amount of weight to many sequences. Overall, this lossless mono presentation seems very true to the source material and purists will enjoy the lack of surround gimmickry. Optional English subtitles are included during the film and extras for translation purposes only.

Kino's presentation earns points for style: unlike many of their releases, this one includes disc art and a nice design on the interior packaging, not to mention the striking cover and even a handsome 20-page Booklet with several excerpts from Andrei Tarkovsky's personal diaries and a new essay by author Robert Bird. The menu is static with music from the film, offering smooth and simple navigation with access to bonus features, chapter selection, and subtitle setup.


There's a lot of excellent stuff here, though it's slightly less impressive if you already own Kino's previous Blu-ray or DVD editions. The main returning extra is a great one: editor Michal Leszczylowski's feature-length documentary Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky (102 minutes), which really pairs well with the main film. Presented in rough-looking full frame with unrestored clips from The Sacrifice, highlights from this documentary include candid moments on set, Tarkovsky's creative process, set design and construction, readings from Tarkovsky's book Sculpting in Time, the director's declining health, clips from his public film lectures, and words from key cast and crew members, along with in-depth analysis of the film and Tarkovsy's career as a whole. Aside from that fact that it's still presented on DVD as a separate disc and the on-screen graphics look especially rough, it's great to have this "second film" as part of the Blu-ray package.

The all-new material leads off with a new full-length Audio Commentary featuring Layla Alexander-Garrett, who worked as Tarkovsky's on-set translator during the film's production. Topics of interest include meeting the director and watching a movie together, an encounter with Ingmar Bergman, stories about the cast and crew, parallels between the characters and Tarkovsky's own family, Sven Nykvist's creative process, constructing the set, Tarkovsky's fear of nuclear war, early casting choices, alternate titles for the film itself, rehearsal and technical challenges during some of the longer shots, Russian war history, Tarkovsky's earlier films, burning down the house, and much more. Also here is a new Video Interview with Michal Leszczylowski (32 minutes) regarding his included documentary Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky; it's a great piece that likewise talks about his initial meetings with the director, stories from the set, Tarkovsky's small but influential body of work, and more. Finally, we get a wordless 4K Restoration Trailer for The Sacrifice and another for Tarkovsky's penultimate film Nostalghia. Overall, this is an outstanding collection of extras that fans will certainly enjoy.

Andrei Tarkovsky's swan song The Sacrifice is a tough nut to crack and, like much of the late director's work, requires a lot of patience to appreciate. Still, for every side-road taken by the dialogue and ambiguous plot point, there's a jaw-dropping image or unforgettable piece of music that lingers in your memory for quite a long time. It's not an enjoyable film in the traditional sense and can be quite frustrating to sit through at times, but I'd encourage any new viewers up to the challenge to give this one a shot. Either way, newcomers and experienced fans alike will enjoy Kino's new Special Edition Blu-ray: featuring a top-notch 4K-sourced restoration and a few outstanding new bonus features, it's fitting treatment for this visually captivating and eternally mysterious slice of foreign cinema. Firmly Recommended.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes, and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.
Buy from







E - M A I L
this review to a friend
Popular Reviews

Sponsored Links
Sponsored Links