Movie Review: Mirror by Andrei Tarkovsky
Any man or woman who undertakes the task of reviewing Tarkovsky’s Mirror, will most likely not know where to start, or think well before doing so. I would like to begin by saying: “What?!”
That pretty much sums up really well my experience of watching Mirror. Without doubt, it is a movie like no other. Though one can find similar elements in a few other films here and there, in its entirety, I think Mirror has no twin or reflection for that matter. For half of it, I had no idea of what it was about or what it was trying to convey. Midway through the movie, I thought I had cracked the code and for the other half, I was still or even more lost. I know I watched a good movie, a special one, but how good was it?
The more I think of it, the fact that it exists alone, amazes me in a sense. To escape from the traditional story narrative, though not unheard and unseen, is not easy. At best, excellent directors play a bit with time and space, but in this one, Tarkovsky has managed to totally break the rules. Putting aside the need to rate a movie like this, we should just celebrate that it is what it is.
After watching the film, and having the full perspective of the series of events that occur, I could start by connecting and speaking about them from this advantageous position, yet I believe that following the journey to that standpoint, will be more enjoyable and more importantly, insightful for this review.
Mirror is no mirror, maybe a broken or “magical” one. If you can guess what will come next, or how the story (if there is such a thing) will progress, then you got the job opening for the next Nostradamus, congrats :p. I believe I managed to predict what was going to happen in the next 10 seconds, two or three times and was super excited for my small achievement. However, beyond that 10 second point, I was back at trying to play catch-up.
The movie’s opening scene, is the key to understanding what’s to come. In it, one character instructs another, with the end result being that the instructed individual changes a crucial part of what constitutes him. I think Tarkovsky knew well that Mirror was a different film and wouldn’t be easily understood by audiences, and as a “warning” or means to prepare us for what’s to come, he is instructing us to shift how we think and understand. The question of what a director could do more with the art of filmmaking should have plagued his mind. After all, a true visionary looks not at the sun, but beyond it.
In the film, nothing is at it appears. You never get what you present to the mirror. A new reflection is always projected. It’s hard to find a single thing that remains static. I started to think why? What was the significance of this choice and what had caused it?
By doing some reading about the director and his life, the picture is somehow clearer I would say, or at least a part of it. Throughout the movie’s run, scenes reminiscent of war, from the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War are featured. Tarkovsky lived through the latter and his father even fought in it. Any conflict, especially one of such kind, in its most horrific front, does something to a human. It shatters ones’ view of the world, breaking the mirror.
This series of thoughts is naturally one of assumptions, and when I present war, for an answer to the why, the real thing is but a shadow of another war, far greater, gruesome and bizarre. In the movie, buildings are on fire, different elements are falling, nature is being manipulated, time and space are broken (at least our understanding of them), reflecting in my humble opinion, the greatest of battles, that for the human heart, soul and mind. Maybe in the only instance of a true reflection, the world we see in Mirror is broken, undefinable, changing, transforming and so on, because we are so.
For good or bad, everything in this movie evolves or degrades, never remaining the same. Characters come and go, with their impact being irrelevant, some’s look changes from one scene to the other; the structural essence of buildings, the weather, you name it. Who is who, what is what, are unimportant. All is in an amazing and beautifully sewed together state of flux. Poetry is intertwined with conversational text, and colors shift constantly; We are in a dream.
Without reading about the movie’s making, I felt that Mirror was special for the director somehow. When I learned that many of the scenes are based from Tarkovsky’s memories, the life and work of his parents, I made scratches to the shell of what Mirror is. A shell that if broken, will unveil another special mirror inside the mirror (you say what?).
To many individuals, it happens that they see dreams that are so real, the real real is challenged. These moments are rare and hence powerful, shaking beliefs and one’s understanding of the world. Though they might repeat, they are never the same. Each time they present to one viewer alone, a movie like no other; specially made from them. Mirror is the closest thing we have, to capturing that on our modern screens and magical mirrors.
This “review” would be somehow incomplete, if I forgot to mention some other noteworthy elements about the movie. Holy shit, some scenes, divine, exquisite. The score and those track shots, yeah sure, throw some layers of eatable gold to that delicious dessert. Furthermore, I might be half or fully wrong, of what I wrote, but I’m sure Mirror with forgive me. It requires no reviews. All reviews about it, such as this one, are a failed attempt to explaining with human words something of a mystical essence. Who and Why and What are irrelevant. No answers this time, just enjoy!
Take Care & All the Best,
You are my mirror and I am yours.