Andrey Tarkovskiy’s last film is a grim vision of WWIII. Quite a legacy. To make this film (in Sweden), AT borrowed two significant elements from Ingmar Bergman: Erland Josephson and Sven Nykvist. Bergman veteran actor Erland Josephson (Scenes From A Marriage) plays the lead role of Alexander, a critic, philosopher, and former actor. Nykvist, Bergman’s longtime cinematographer, gives the film its vital visual, brooding look Extraordinarily, the film descends from color to muted drabness to black and white without the viewer even realizing this. And the film remains one of images. It’s the images I’ll remember.
The film opens with Alexander and his young son, Little Man who are planting a tree as a legacy. The family is vacationing on a remote Swedish island (which explains how they survive Armageddon, at least temporarily). After the planting, they are visited by The Postman, a mystic type, who delivers the mail – and odd bits of philosophy.
It’s Alexander’s birthday, and the scenes move inside their home. Besides the postman who shows up, there’s Alexander’s wife and his older daughter, a doctor and two housemaids. The most interesting of the characters remains the Postman who tells the gathering at one point that he is a collector of incidents – exactly 284 to date, to be exact. He relays one of these. As the evening progresses, there is a loud noise, the power is lost after an announcement has been received that the hostilities have started. The rest of the film is like a nightmarish dream. The sacrifice is a bargain that Alexander attempts to make with God to give up everything he has if his family can be saved from the holocaust.
Tarkovskiy was dying of brain cancer as the film was being made, and this difficult film caps his legacy.