The Mirror (1975)

G   |    |  Biography, Drama

The Mirror (1975) Poster

A dying man in his forties remembers his past. His childhood, his mother, the war, personal moments and things that tell of the recent history of all the Russian nation.


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1 February 2005 | federovsky
See it and die
We are talking visual poetry here. For almost the entire film, every square inch of screen is minutely painted. Ordinary criticism doesn't apply, there is no comparison between this and any other film.

So many scenes have you holding your breath in awe. The smallest movement of light is choreographed precisely. A shadow across someone's face, the wind in the trees - these are not simply images of those things, but the ungraspable nature of life, regret, beauty, memory. So much more lies beneath the surface, as we are shown a reflection in a mirror that momentarily purports to be reality, but need not necessarily be interpreted as such.

The film's magic derives from Tarkovsky's surefooted ability to succeed with a succession of intense, beautiful images. He cannot put a foot wrong. Discontinuity in the narrative give the appearance of complexity, but Tarkovksy would insist that the basic thrust of the narrative is simple. The film is immensely personal, and the disconnections only serve to involve the viewer more – we are allowed to fill in the gaps ourselves.

To appreciate all this you need an essential sympathy for nostalgia and memories, for the passing of life, and for regret. You need an appreciation of a silent room and what it previously held, and of nature. You will need a sense of living in a turbulent and dangerous world, where all beauty is transient and sad. You will need to understand how small moments in life can become the most precious.

The film is tragic because, like memories, it lingers. It shows us details beneath the surface and how they can affect us. It shows life in the context of death, nature, the times and places we have passed through. The camera ponders and paints all this in beautiful detail.

Of course, real life is never so rich nor so intense - only momentarily so. The film wants to distil as much of that precious beauty as possible in a number of disjointed moments, coloured through memory and imagination, from childhood through to the point of death.

Apply it to your own life. There is no more than this.

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