Tarkovsky described film as a mosaic of ‘fixed time’, and for him, while making this, time was running out fast (he died from cancer shortly after winning the Cannes Grand Prix for it). The result was a film unrivalled in the history of cinema in the expression of sheer dread. Made in Sweden, it tells in deceptively simple terms of a literary critic, once an actor (Josephson), who promises to give up everything ‘that connects him with the world’ in a bid to save it from the impending nuclear holocaust he hears announced on television. For those willing to acccept the tenets of Tarkovsky’s cinema of spiritual quest, his esoteric notions of Christian iconography and his obscure approach to cinematic meaning, the film can seem nothing less than miraculous. And it’s true that ‘The Sacrifice’ is most beautifully composed and superbly shot. But however great is Tarkovsky’s mastery of mise-en-scène, or astounding his use of sound composition, it appears dehumanised and not a little egocentric, closer to a study of madness and self-delusion than, as I believe Tarkovsky hoped, an illustration of the power of faith and self-sacrifice.