Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mirror – A Landmark In World Cinema

Mirror (Zerkalo) was made in 1974 and is the perfect illustration of Andrei Tarkovsky’s genius as a director.

Mirror provides the viewer with vivid images of unbelievable power and beauty and is an evocation of childhood which is without equal in cinema.

Tarkovsky said of Mirror:

“There are no entertaining moments in the film. In fact I am categorically against entertainment in cinema it is as degrading for the author as it is for the audience

Dont let this put you off, Mirror may not be an easy film to watch, but has much for the viewer to experience and enjoy.

The plot

A with all Tarkovsky’s films it is nostalgic and deals with innocence lost and the film focuses on the futile struggle to re visit, or hold onto to the past.

Mirror is a gripping, beautiful and sometimes horrifying film.

Mirror focuses on the regrets of a man that is dying in his 40′s and the film changes time constantly between his harsh childhood in the war and the present.

In fact, the viewer is never sure whether their in the present or the past.

Mirror has no conventional plot; it is simply a collection of images strung together.

The film effectively lets the viewer draw his own conclusions from what they have seen and there is no direction from Tarkovsky at all.

In addition to the flashbacks between childhood and the present time, there are interludes of newsreel footage which serve as the narrator’s silent commentary on the events influencing his life.

Tarkovsky obscures time by using the same actors to portray the two separate phases of the narrator’s life.

For instance, Margarita Terekhova puts in a stunning performance as both the wife and mother of the narrator.

To attempt to conform these images into some coherent plot or universal conclusion is pointless, but this does not detract from the film.

What makes the film so special is the imagery and visual splendour of the film.

Imagery

Andrei Tarkovsky’s films are all characterised by metaphyical themes and Mirror is a perfect example.

Tarkovsky stated

“words cannot express a person’s emotions”.

However, imagery can and does in Mirror.

This is the true genius of the film and Tarkovsky’s mastery of the camera is unrivalled.

The film features extremley long takes, and images of stunning beauty.

Recurring themes in Mirror are dreams, memories and the innocence of childhood.

Running water is always present accompanied by fire, rain, reflections, and characters reappearing in front of long panning movements of the camera.

Tarkovsky developed a theory of cinema that he reffered to as “sculpting in time”.

By this, Tarkovsky meant that the unique characteristic of cinema as a medium was to take the experience of time and alter it.

By the utilization of long takes and few cuts, he tried to give the viewers a sense of time passing, time lost, and the relationship at specific periods in time.

Connection with the audience

It is the intentsity of the imagery that makes Mirror such a beautiful film and forms the connection between Tarkovsky and his audience.

In many instances simple images are seen in way we have never seen them before, with an intensity that grips the viewer and draws them into Tarkovsky’s world.

Rain dripping from a window, a milk jug as it falls and shatters on the floor, wind gusting through a house or field, simple images but filmed in a unique way.

The intensity of the shots reflecting perhaps how we would view these images if we were close to death.

The film also makes simple scenes seem dramatic, such as the excitement of the children watching a burning house, or the joy of the fathers visit.

The imagery while beautiful still reflects the isolation and the emotions of the characters.

For example, the dacha of Tarkovsky’s childhood stands in deep and brooding countryside and the camera lingers on the characters faces constantly throughout the film probing their emotions,and lingering on their pain and anguish.

Tarkovsky said of Mirror:

The facts are so simple; they can be taken by everyone as similar to the experience of their own lives

This is the power of Mirror; we can relate to the images in the film in our own way and also get an insight into the tortured genius that was Andrei Tarkovsky.

It is no more than a straightforward, simple story. It doesn’t have to be made any more understandable

Simple, complex, beautiful and haunting Mirror has it all and much more.

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