Zur Front

1. April 2017

Offret (1986)

This is one of Tarkovsky's lesser works, nowhere near his major works Solaris, The Mirror and Stalker, and so for a number of reasons:
  1. the choice to turn Sweden into Russia,
  2. the ongoing reprise of scenes from The Mirror and Stalker,
  3. the overall exhaustion and coarseness of inspiration.
Offret is a film which I can completely pick apart, lay out and explain the single pieces thereof and their relations to each other, something that I can't nearly do with the aforementioned major films.

It's Tarkovsky's elegy about the loss of belief, which consists of three major parts:
  1. the lament of its lack,
  2. the hapless grasping at rudiments,
  3. the destitute gathering around the empty shell.
The last words of the film are actually comical, possibly intendedly so:
In the beginning was the Word.
Why is that, Papa?
The answer to that is of course:
Because some asshole confused the meaning of logos with the meaning of lexis.
But I think that Tarkovsky knew that, since these are the first words that the boy speaks in the whole film - after he repeatedly expressed his love for his fellow human beings through his actions, for the first time, when he binds the bicycle of the postman, who complained about life being one excruciatingly repetitive thing, to a withered shrub. It is fair to assume that the boy wasn't told to do so, but simply had a notion of what would be the appropriate thing to.

Given this rather simple resolution one cannot but feel a bit too light-hearted for the elegy to work as one:
So what is all the wailing about? Why all these bizarre turns?
Yet, no matter how simple the truth, the lie stands, for it is very true that people do indeed not know how to pray anymore and that even savages are more spiritual than them.

Alexander prays for the world to be saved. Very noble. I didn't have that noblesse in me, I just asked God to show himself. I didn't want to be presumptuous. And I understood that if God showed himself, I had to adapt to whatever that meant.

It is as simple as that again:
You believe, you rely on.
That's why the saints of old looked the way they did, because they relied on what they believed in for decades of their lives.

Tarkovsky links this topic with that of natural beauty and planned one. But here things are a little different than a completely uncritical viewing of Offret might suggest, for there is beauty in all things that you can believe in and the reason, why Alexander is experiencing a loss of harmony in the world, is that he loses the belief in himself - that he is throwing himself away.

Not to sound like a pompous ass, but glorious is the man who creates a sense of glory all around him.

But then... why does that often fail?

Because all glory is from God and not remembering it will make you sick.

Of course... a man can only do so much. The way the Russians milked Stalin's unselfishness finally had him contorted, but that is not quite in the line of this film. Going back to it, we'll still have to talk about the postman and Maria.

The postman considers the reality of the miracle, but treats it as a mere experiment, conducted in other people, pretty much like some priests treat baptism or the laying on of hands.

Well, he allows for some movements in himself as well, but he doesn't ask for what he desires, probably because he desires naught.

And finally we have Maria, who is simply very humble, not without desires, but aware of the true scale of desirability. Her role in this film is monstrously exaggerated; perhaps commenting on something.

But she strikes me more as a socialist heroine than a Catholic one:
If only we gave up our sovereignty, nuclear war could be avoided.
This is a bit weird, because there's not even a hint of this in the films that Tarkovsky shot in the Soviet Union - perhaps homesickness, some belated appreciation?

Or just a compass. But in that case with no understanding of western psychology at all, because it doesn't work and can't possibly work:
The grey of poverty is forever the sign of vileness bred from suppression here.
In order to show the true scale of desirability he would have had to show acts of renunciation instead of servile duty.

Not that servile duty is wrong, it's just whom you serve:
There's no general presumption of worthiness here. Sourness is in all our hearts.
It must be mellowed by understanding.

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