Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Sacrifice


In the previous post, we have entered two meditation rooms. The first room is the Mark Rothko Chapel in Houston. The other meditation room is everywhere and always present.

Now you and I consider the sacrifice as “object in the middle”. For this we look at the last part of the movie “Offret” or “The Sacrifice” by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1986.

[1]

Before we start watching this part of the movie, we read first several introductions and reflections on this film. We start with “The sealed time” [2]: reflections on the cinema by Andrei Tarkovsky.

“The sealed time” is also a good name for the interior of the Mark Rothko Chapel”, you say.

In these reflections Andrei Tarkovsky writes: “The protagonist of the film” Offret ” is meant as a weak personality. No hero, but a thinker and an honest person who is able to sacrifice for a higher ideal. If the situation requires, he does not back and tries to leave the act of sacrifice to someone else. He faces not being understood by others and to be seen as destructive and desperate. He exceeds the permissible limit of normal behavior by which he is seen as insane, because he feels bound to the fate of all mankind. He only responds to the call of his heart. He is not master of fate, but only servant. His efforts remain unnoticed and misunderstood, but do contribute to the harmony of the world.[3]

“Do you recognize yourself in this description?” I ask.

“With shame. I often follow my own way and I have neglected other people unnecessarily”, you say.

“Who does not?” I say.

“Saints?”, you say

“We both aren’t,” I say.

In the afterword to these considerations Andrei Tarkovsky writes: “Throughout history ideologues and politicians have shown people “the only right way” that can save the world. To partake in this salvation the individual should – according to ideologues, politicians and/or society – give up all own ideas in order to channel all energy to the proposed rescue. For this progress, that has to safeguard the future of humanity, the individual sacrifices his inner life. His personality is lost in following this ideal. Because mankind thinks of the interests of all, it forgets its own personal interest as Christ preaches: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” This means: “Love yourself so much that you respect the divine principle in yourself, the suprapersonal that prohibits selfishness and obliges you to give yourself to others unconditionally, loyalty to yourself from the I as a personal centre of life.” [4] [5]

“This requires a major balancing act between self-interest – in which the world is reflected – and sacrifices for others – whereby each sacrifice for another is a sacrifice to yourself”, you say.

“Somewhere I read that a beggar and a benefactor show compassion for each other by an offering. The beggar gives the benefactor the opportunity to demonstrate compassion and the benefactor shows compassion with another expression of his own life”, I say.

“To give offerings in an unconditional manner, we still have a long way to go. Andrei Tarkovsky describes a first step towards a Buddhist bodhisattva [6]. The ideal of salvation and the unconditional offerings to others is present. Only the efforts and the ways to achieve one’s own perfection before the bodhisattva encourages others to prepare for enlightenment, lacks”, you say.

“Within mahâyâna [7] Buddhism enlightenment is only possible for everyone at the same time. The metaphor of Indra’s Net shows this. First one’s own glass bead has to be prepares for enlightenment. Thereafter, all other glass beads have to be able to enter enlightenment. If one glass bead is illuminated, all other pearls are also lit: no jewel within Indra’s Net is left behind, because otherwise the dust on one non-enlightened jewel reflects on all”, I say.

“Absolutely. Because the protagonist is not clear in his mind, he cannot save the world. If he does so, he remains behind with his faults and is at least one small part of the world that is not saved. Hereby the protagonist is not a bodhisattva, but a tragic hero”, you say.

“He cannot be a classic tragic hero, because he believes in a God who may grant him salvation,” I say.

“Later on our Odyssey, we will encounter enlightenment again. You and I share the same shortcomings as the protagonist in the film. I hope we are able to see a glimpse of the enlightenment. Odysseus has been tied to the mast of his ship in the vicinity of the Sirens. The ears of his crew were filled with wax to prevent noticing the seductive sounds. This reasoning is not sound, anyway”, you say.

“Let us watch the movie”, I say.

The last film of Andrei Tarkovsky – finished shortly before his death – begins with the monologue by the father – Alexander – to his son who will not speak during the entire movie due to a throat disease: “A long ago, an old monk named Pamve was in an Orthodox monastery. He has planted a dead tree. His pupil – named Ivan Kolvo – may give water to the tree every day. Every morning he climbs with a full bucket of water uphill and gives water to the dead trunk. On one day after three years, the tree blooms with full blossom [8]. Every action has its consequence. If you perform undisturbed at the same time every day the same ritual, the world will change irrevocably. [9]

“My mother once put a dead stick on the ground outside to the wall. After several months, the stick has rooted”, you say.

[10]

During the film a threat of a war develops that will destroy everything and everyone. Under this pressure, the main character – Alexander – goes to his study. He kneels on the ground and does something he never has done before. He prays: “Lord, save us in this fearful hour. Do not let my children and friends die, my wife, everyone who loves and believes in you. And those who do not believe in you because they are blind and have not given thoughts to you because they have not really been unhappy. Anyone who will lose his hopes now, his future his life and the opportunity to be guided by your word. Those who are filled with fear and feel the end is nearing. Who do not fear for themselves but for their neighbours. For those who nobody else can save but you. Because this war is the last, a terrible war. After this there will be no victors and vanquished any more. No towns and villages, trees and grass. No water in the springs or birds in the sky. I give you everything I own. I leave my family that I love. I destroy my house and take away my son. I will remain silent and talk to nobody. I renounce all that binds me to this life. If you only ensure that everything is as it was. And I am freed from that deadly, unbearable, animal fear. Lord, help me. I will do what I promised.”

The next morning, the threat is disappeared. Alexander sticks to his word and lures all the residents to the seaside before putting the house on fire. All his possessions are on fire. He sacrifices his soul for his neighbours and the world. He is retrieved by an ambulance for admission to a mental institution.

[11]

“This sacrifice is not only a sacrifice of the protagonist. It is also a sacrifice made by his family and friends. Without any direct say, they lose Alexander, their house and possessions. Can a sacrifice be a real sacrifice when innocent people involved “[12], you ask.

While the ambulance passes, the son is ready to water the dead tree with full buckets of water. The Aria “Erbarme dich“ from St. Matthew Passion begins.

“Erbarme dich,
Mein Gott,
Um meiner want Zahren
Schaue here
Herz und Auge weint vor dir
Bitterlich.”
[13]

The son looks at the crown of the tree and says his only words during the film: “In the beginning is the word [14]. Why Father? “.

At the appearance of the text mentioning that the film is dedicated to the son of Andrei Tarkovsky – with hope and consolation, the crown of the tree seems to bloom.

“The son makes three sacrifices. He loses his father because his father sticks to his word and to God’s word. He makes his second sacrifice by continuously giving water to the tree and bringing this tree back to life. By the third sacrifice he remain silent throughout the film. Fully justified the son asks his father – and God – why his father must keep his word”, you say.

“For me this is a film of hope, because the last film by Andrei Tarkovsky is dedicated to his son with hope and consolation. At the end of this film, the light gives bloom to the tree of life. The life of his father – now a dry tree, because he has stopped acting – becomes a tree of life for the son by means of water. The son does not need any words for his sacrifices; his life, his actions and his knowledge precedes all words”, I say.

“A great enhancement of my impressions. Tarkovsky transcends “the sealed time” with this end of his last film”, you say.

[15]

The next post is about the Lamb of God as sacrifice.


[1] Source image: front of DVD-cover of the Swedish version of the film “Offret”.

[2] Tarkovski, Andrei, Sculpting in Time – Reflections on the Cinema. 1989

[3] Tarkovski, Andrei, De verzegelde tijd – Beschouwingen over de filmkunst. Pagina 203.

[4] Tarkovski, Andrei, De verzegelde tijd – Beschouwingen over de filmkunst. Pagina 207 – 208.

[5] For consideration: Indra’s Net as metaphor; see also: “Indra’s net” in post “Introduction: One – Pantheism – Indra’s net” of 8th April 2011

[6] The word bodhisattva consists of two words “bodhi” and “sattva” meaning “perfect knowledge, wisdom” and “being, conscience, living being” in Sanskrit. The school of mahâyâna buddhism knows the bodhisattva ideal. According to this ideal a human who is on the verge of enlightenment – named bodhisattva, will refrain of entering until the complete universe and every particle is capable to enter enlightment. In the meantime a bodhisattva will prepare everyone and everything for enlightenment.

[7] Mahâyâna means “large vehicle”. All and everyone is enclosed in this large vehicle, no particle is excluded.

[8] See also the post of 2nd of April 2011 “Introduction One – Blossom.”

[9] See also the posts of 24th en 27th March 2011 on rituels.

[10] Source image: http://www.jaapnoordzij.nl/credo/2010/09/offret-het-offer.html

[11] Source image: http://www.discordance.fr/top-5-les-meilleurs-epilogues-du-cinema-27740/1_offret

[12] Source: Fanu, Mark Le, The Cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky. London: BFI Publishing, 1987, page 125

[13] Aria from the St. Matthew Passion by the German composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Translation: “Have mercy, my God, regarding my tears, look at me, heart and eyes weep for you bitterly.”

[14] See also: Opening of the Gospel of St. John from the New Testament.

[15] Source image: http://www.elitisti.net/artikkeli/2005/02/004308/offret_1986_uhri.html

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s