In this time of pandemic and primeval fear, it is bracing to revisit Andrei Tarkovsky’s final film, The Sacrifice, where one man’s potent prayers reverse the world’s destruction.
We first meet the aging actor Alexander on his birthday. He and his young son, Little Man, are planting a leafless Japanese tree on the shore of the remote Scandinavian island. “It looks dead,” Alexander says half-ruefully, then tells his son the tale of an Orthodox monk who planted a dead tree on a mountainside and instructed his apprentice to water it every day. The novice did so dutifully, until one morning he found the mountainside covered with blossoms.