#232 The Mirror
(1974, Andrei Tarkovsky)
“It seems to make me return to the place, poignantly dear to my heart”
If there’s anything I seriously struggle to review here on SvTM, it’s bizarre semi-autobiographical art films made in Europe. There’s something incomprehensible about these kinds of films, since they tend to rely on symbolism over plot, and sometimes that symbolism is wrapped up so tightly it’s hard to unravel it all until something that makes sense. On that note, let’s take a look at The Mirror.
The Mirror is essentially a stream of consciousness movie, jumping throughout various memories, dreams and experiences of a mysterious person we never see, with a focus on a woman named Maria (Margarita Terehkova) who takes on a variety of roles.
And that’s everything that I could get from this movie’s “plot”. The movie has absolutely no structure or coherence to its events. Things just kind of happen, and it’s up to us as the viewer to put the pieces together. The movie opens on a boy being “healed” of his stuttering problem, before cutting to a strange businessman talking to Maria, who’s sitting on a fence.
As we move through the film, she’s seen staring into a mirror and seeing herself as an old woman, rummaging through what seems to be a newspaper office for something important during war time (I think), and fighting with her husband. There’s also a bizarre section where a boy named Ignat keeps seeing strange people hanging around the apartment he’s in before ending up as some kind of child soldier.
I’m not sure what Tarkovsky was trying to achieve with this movie, and as such it makes it hard to know what to say about it. There’s a definite dream-like quality to the movie, and if the aim was to be an ethereal dream without meaning, then he succeeded admirably. Nothing really pieces together well and nothing is ever really resolved. It leaves tons of questions, and things often feel distant. Just like in a dream, then.
Sadly, even if it’s achieved a dream-like state, The Mirror did very little to keep me engaged. Because nothing is connected, everything feels incredibly inconsequential. It feels pointless to pay attention to anything that happens, because it has no relevance to what happens in the next scene, and instead of engaging the viewer directly, it asks the viewer to force themselves to be engaged.
The constant shifting locations and name changes given to characters also serve to make the film horribly disorientating. It feels like there are several movies on different channels and I’m flicking between them all at random. Just as I was absorbing the information from the opening scenes at the farmhouse, it switches to the printers’ offices and everything that happened before was seemingly dropped, never to be seen again.
It gets worse when the movie suddenly switches to groups of teenage boys being trained as soldiers, with no obvious presence of Terehkova’s character, who up to that point had seemed like the central character, the anchor that held everything in place.
The Mirror is a difficult film that challenges constantly but offers little in the way of clues or assistance in unravelling its mysteries. Perhaps a good film for the arthouse crowd to pick apart, but not a movie to sit and watch casually.
Starring Margarita Terehkova, Ignat Daniltsev, Larisa Tarkovskaya, Alla Demidova, Anatoli Solonitsyn & Tamara Ogorodnikova
Written by Aleksandr Misharin & Andrei Tarkovsky
Produced by Erik Weisberg
Music by Eduard Artemyev
Cinematography by Georgi Rerberg
Edited by Lyudmila Feiginova
Favourite Scene: The scene with Ignat seeing strange people in an apartment was interesting and made me believe the film was turning into some kind of psychological thriller.
Scene That Bugged Me: Why the child soldiers, exactly? Did I miss something?
Watch it if: You like your arty semi-autobiographical movies
Avoid it if: You’d rather get your dreams from sleeping