The Sacrifice is sometimes baffling, often moving and always engrossing. Tarkovsky would die of cancer just months after the film was released, but this isn’t a film that signals a career petering out. Rather, it’s a forceful and impassioned artistic statement, leavened with a great deal of worry about the state of the world, but ultimately embracing the catharsis of a redemptive action.
The Blu-ray Disc
The Sacrifice is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. The film has never looked all that great on Region 1 DVD, making Kino’s superb Blu-ray release all the more of a revelation. The transfer, working from restored and remastered film elements, looks impressively film-like throughout, with an astonishing clarity of image and detail. The film’s color scheme is rather flat, even in the opening and closing scenes that aren’t desaturated, but the transfer represents them faithfully. Softness is never a problem and contrast is perfectly attenuated, with the near-black-and-white scenes showing excellent grayscale separation and superb shadow detail. Print damage is very minimal. The film looks just fantastic — easily the best you’ll see it outside of a repertory 35mm screening.
Audio is presented in an uncompressed two-channel mono track that presents the mostly Swedish dialogue cleanly and clearly, with the film’s louder moments (a character crying in anguish might be the most ear-rattling) retaining fidelity and not coming off too sharp. I did notice some light crackle during a few moments, but it’s hardly even worth mentioning.
The release here is a two-disc set, but it’s not overflowing with extras like that designation might have you believe. The film gets a Blu-ray disc all to itself, while a DVD disc contains Directed By Andrei Tarkovsky, a feature-length documentary by Michal Leszczylowski, who co-edited The Sacrifice with Tarkovsky. It’s a more fluid and free-form film than most making-ofs, and it presents a fascinating look at Tarkovksy’s work behind the camera and his filmmaking philosophy.
The DVD also includes trailers for other Kino releases and two small photo galleries, with stills from The Sacrifice and the documentary.
The Bottom Line
The film looks marvelous, and a transfer like this is essential to fully appreciating the sheer visual beauty of a Tarkovsky work.