2.20.2004

Meaning/Change/Theme/Dreams/Hope/Love/Truth in "The Sacrifice"

I'm conflating the terms in the above title because I see them as related. I'll parse out some of the differences here, but it is this necessary entanglement of our existence that our postmodern "enlightenment" has lost sight of--a loss that Andrei Tarkovsky lamented.

Colleen @ Del Rey asked what I thought about Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice. I think everyone should see it. I'll unravel just the beginning, so that you may unravel the rest for yourselves--the truth/change/etc. If you see dreams/hope/love as the vector that drives a character toward change, which leads to lifting the corner of a page in the book of meaning/theme/revelation/truth, it is difficult not to see things from Tarkovsky's perspective.

The story begins with Alexander helping his son, Little Man, to erect a dead tree. He tells his son if he waters the tree for years, one day it will blossom:

"A method, a system has its virtues. If one were to perform the same single act,like a ritual, unchanging systematic..., the world would be changed.... Something would change. It would have to."

Later, the two bump into the bicycling postman who, being something of a mystic, warns Alexander, "We all are waiting for something. I've always felt as if... the living I've done, so far, hasn't actually been real life, but a long wait for... something real.... We hope, we lose hope, we move closer to death. Finally, we die and are born again. But we remember nothing. And everything begins again, from scratch. Not literally the same way, just wee wee bit different. But it's still so hopeless and we don't know why. Just the next performance so to speak."

Alexander responds, "Do you really think that mankind could devise a universal concept, a model... of Absolute Law, of Absolute Truth? Why it'd be like trying to create a new universe, to be a demiurge [dramaturge?]. Do you truly believe...?"

"Yes," says the postman, mounting his bicycle. "If I truly believe, it will be so."

Alexander takes his boy into the woods, where they will meet a couple motoring down a dirt road. He tells the boy, "In the beginning was the word. You are mute, mute as a fish. We've lost our way. Humanity is also on the wrong road, a dangerous road."

One of the couple is a doctor who, on reflecting of the child's speechlessness, says, "Gandhi had one day a week when he spoke to no one."

The couple head back to the house in the car while Alexander chooses to finish his speech to Little Man although, when the major points are revealed, "Little Man" is not listening but gone.: "We had no map. We forgot to bring one.... There is no such thing as death.... there's the fear of death and that... makes people do things they shouldn't. [Typical anti-science speech]. Savages are more spiritual than we.... How weary I am of all this talk.... If only some could stop talking and DO something instead. Or at least try to."

Later the postman hands Alexander a birthday gift of an old map: "Every gift requires a sacrifice. If not, what kind of gift would it be."

"It must have been lovely when men thought the world looked like this," Alexander said. "This Europe looks more like Mars. That is, it has nothing to do with truth."

"No. But people lived then."

"I have a feeling that our maps have nothing to do with truth, either."

Watch for maps, opening/closing of doors, bicycles vs. motor cars. Think of the story as one of a cycle of such stories--i.e. Abraham and Isaac, etc.--and the ending should become quite clear.

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