Review: Mirror

Mirror screenshot

Original title: Zerkalo
Year: 1975 | Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It occurs to me now for the first time that due to recent events, my watching and logging of Mirror could be seen as a political action, but I must confess that this was simply the next film in my “to be watched” stack of Blu-rays, and I inserted the disc into my Playstation without even the slightest of thoughts to current world events.

It does make me wonder, though, exactly what that political statement might be in the context of this film, and of Andrei Tarkovsky’s life in general. Later on, he was an effective defector from the USSR, after all, but less so for political reasons than for the simple fact that his film work was not supported in his home country, being seen as inaccessible and elitist by a populist regime. There are mentions of Russia as the “fatherland” in parts of this film, but overall I didn’t find the war sequences contained within to be particularly political in nature. I suppose that Tarkovsky’s true feelings toward his country of origin will never truly be known, seeing as speaking out against the Soviet Union in the ’70s and ’80s could easily be a Russian’s last mistake (there exists conspiracy theories, in fact, that Tarkovsky was actually assassinated by his former government). It’s quite fascinating how current events can influence how we perceive and think about films that were made almost fifty years ago.

At any rate, I can’t pretend to have understood all (or even much) of what I just saw — hopefully the supplements on the Criterion Blu-ray will help with that — but I do know a provocative, philosophical, and poetic piece of cinematic art when I see it. Much like the later films of Terrence Malick (of which Mirror is often cited as an influence, especially regarding The Tree of Life), it’s less about what the film is trying to “say” than it is about how the viewer reacts to the images and sounds on the screen. This film is even more a patchwork of beautiful cinematography, expert editing and monumentally moving classical music than even the most indecipherable of Malick’s films, which means that it is no doubt a film that will take root in my subconscious and permeate my thoughts for days.

What does it all mean? Does that even matter? Is a film more than just a narrative, or plot, or story? Can a film succeed simply on the feelings that it makes the viewer experience? Can the audience be their own guides and have their own, highly individual experiences with films?

These are questions that not all movies dare to ask. When we find those that do, we need to take advantage of the opportunity to help further dictate and expand what it means to be “cinematic.”

Language: Russian, Spanish
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 1 hr. 47 min.
Rating: Not Rated

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Starring: Margarita Terekhova, Ignat Daniltsev, Larisa Tarkovskaya, Alla Demidova, Anatoliy Solonitsyn

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