- It is all in the mirror 5/23/2004 12:00:00 AM by G_a_l_i_n_a
I just finished watching it. It's been several years since I saw it last time. I worried that I may not like it as much as I used to...
I should not have worried - I love it even more now if that is at all possible. I've seen it at different times of my life - first, as a college student many years ago in Moscow; I keep returning to it all my life.
When Tarkovsky's Zerkalo (The Mirror) was first released, it divided the audience completely. I remember how my friends were passionately discussing it. One girl was complaining that she did not understand anything; the movie was confusing for her, dark, disturbing, the children characters - sad, pale, poorly dressed. I remember her asking, "Why did they show a boy in the opening scene that had an awful stutter, and they never showed that boy again? What did it mean when the dying man in bed was setting a bird free? How did he get the bird on the first place?" Another friend of mine, a guy, tried to explain the things to her. He suggested that she thought about the times Zerkalo was showing, he tried to explain to her Tarkovsky's symbolism where the bird could be representing life and soul of the main character and the boy with the stutter could mean that it was most difficult for people to communicate and understand each other.
I only listened to their argument and did not participate because I had not seen the film yet. When it finally happened, Andrei Arsenievich Tarkovsky was presented at the screening and he talked to the audience before the show. I remember him repeating over and over that there were no tricks, no puzzles, and no tongue-in-cheeks in the film; that every symbol, image, dialog, and sound was there because they belonged there. He asked us if we had questions. Someone from the audience suggested that we saw the film first, and then, asked questions. Tarkovsky replied that from his experience, not many viewers would sit through the film and who ever would, usually leave in silence, not asking anything. And then he told us a story. After Zerkalo was completed, it was first shown to the group of the famous critics. After watching it, critics started to argue about it, trying to find the hidden meaning and make sense of what they just saw. It went on and on until the cleaning lady who came to the screening room and had been waiting for the end of discussion to do her job, asked them for how long they would stay? Someone said to her that they were discussing a very complicated film, and they needed time to understand it. Cleaning lady asked, "What is that you do not understand in this film? I saw it also, and I understood everything." Critics were silenced for a moment, and then, one of them asked the woman to share her thoughts on Zerkalo. She answered, "It is about a man who had caused too much pain to the ones whom he loved and who loved him. Now he is dying and he is trying to ask them for forgiveness but he does not know how." After the pause Tarkovsky said that he had nothing else to add about his film to what the cleaning lady had to say.
I never understood complains that Zerkalo is a very confusing, difficult, and dark film. No, it is clear and deep as a mirror. Tarkovsky said so himself, and I believe him. Every time you look at the mirror, it will show you new depth and reflections. Past, presence, future, memory, love, guilt, forgiveness, beauty, sadness, nostalgia, and sacrifice - the mirror reflects it all -just watch closely. This is the film about his family, his country, and his times. Childhood memory and the memory of the past generations glued together. The film is a look back in time and sad realization that children reflect destiny of fathers, as in a mirror. Destinies reflected one in another.
Zerkalo is not just good cinema, it is pure cinema. Like architecture is music in stone, Zerkalo is poetry on screen.
My verdict – The Best Film ever made, the top of my list (tie with Andrei Rublyov).
- Rules are there to be broken 2/18/2005 12:00:00 AM by desh79
To many Mirror is possibly Tarkovsky's most inhibitive and uninviting work, be as it may not a story in the traditional sense but rather an assemblage of images, scenes, and thoughts which at first sight seem to have very little in common and just drift back and forth with no obvious literal explanation. It's only after repeated viewings and the realisation of what it actually was that Tarkovsky tried to achieve that it dawns that this is more than just a bunch of random scenes, but a timeless and highly important masterpiece which defies explanation. But I'll try anyway.
I personally hold Tarkovsky in very high esteem. There are many directors I would regard as good or very good (for instance Kubrick, Kieslowski, Ozu, or Miyazaki), but there are only two directors I regard as absolute geniuses: Akira Kurosawa and, yep, Andrei Tarkovsky. Interestingly this is for two solely different reasons - whereas I admire Kurosawa for the manner in which he managed to perfect the art of cinematic storytelling, Tarkovsky deserves praise for wanting to shake cinema out of its complacent acceptance that films should simply tell a story and little else. Mirror is further proof that Tarkovsky's body of work (which is limited in quantity - a mere eight films - but rich in scope) establishes that the Hollywood mode of narrative is not the only way in which film can create an emotional response from an audience. Of course Tarkovsky is not alone in having done so (Marker and Greenaway immediately spring to mind), but what distinguishes him from other "art house" directors is that he has managed to take this style of film making and drive it to a stage that can be described as almost perfect.
I personally interpret Mirror as a man's life flashing before his eyes before he dies; his relationship with his wife and mother (both played by the same person, in an ingenious move on Tarkovsky's behalf), his children, his friends, the history of his home land, his own childhood. However, Mirror is deliberately structured in such a way that it can, and will, be interpreted differently by different people depending on how they inscribe their own personal thoughts and feelings into the narrative. This is where Tarkovsky's genius comes to fore - to create a film which does not dictate to an audience how to feel by manipulating them via music or mise-en-scene, but to make it the other way around. In the case of Mirror, we, the audience, dictate the emotional response created by the images on screen and, that, ultimately is that makes it such a wonderful work and a true rarity. This is possibly another way the title of the film can be interpreted, in that it illustrates a wholly reflective style of cinema.
Those not accustomed to a slightly more disjunctive cinematic style are likely to dismiss Mirror as boring or dull because it may not necessarily correspond to their expectations of film. However, it is still something I would regard as required viewing for everyone since it shows that cinema can be beautiful without necessarily following the rules Hollywood has imposed on the rest of the film making community, and that ultimately rules are there to be broken. A masterpiece, no less.
- See it and die 2/1/2005 12:00:00 AM by federovsky
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.
- The Incompatibility of Man and Nature 5/19/2000 12:00:00 AM by two-rivers
Ignoring other prominent thematic fields like family or marital problems and Russian or Soviet history (from Pushkin via Stalin to the current fear of a Chinese threat), two topics can be extracted from the movie which Tarkovsky seems to be very concerned about: 1.The confrontation of Man and Nature as two opposing powers, and 2.The continuum of time (the equation of present, future and past).
The importance of topic 2 can be made clear by just considering the film's structure: The different time levels are intertwined in an often deliberately confusing way so that it actually becomes difficult to identify them. The fact that the same actors are used to portray different characters of different time levels (Maria=Alexei's mother and Natalya=Alexei's wife; Alexei as a child and Ignat=Alexei's son) underlines the idea of deliberateness in addition. But the interconnection of times is also made visible by the recurrent theme of the so called 'déjà-vu-phenomenon': A character perceives a new situation or action as if it has already occurred before. In fact, he or she gets a notion of the predetermination of everything that happens in his or her life - a horrid thought, because then you can't change anything and have to accept willingly whatever an obscure determinating force has planned for you.
Let's concentrate on the last sequences in which the significance and the combination of these themes become obvious. First there is the scene where Alexei, who lives in separation from Natalya, lies in agony, overcome by an unknown disease. He just has the energy to make a last statement for posterity ("I simply wanted to be happy!"), then he retires from the world, asking to be left in peace.
But while he is on the brink of death, he still succeeds in wondrously stirring up life. He takes into his hand a moribund bird, which is lying on his bedside table, squeezes it, and then lets it go so that it can fly up into freedom.
Is it the same bird that breaks through a window glass in another scene, or that places itself on the head of that orphan boy whose parents have perished in the Leningrad blockade, as if he wanted to protect him?
The birds of "Zerkalo" seem to take up a symbolic function similar to the dogs in other Tarkovsky movies (i.e.: "Nostalghia", "Solyaris"): They represent some kind of link between Man and Nature; they are frontier guards at the gates of the unknown.
Tarkovsky sees Man and Nature as two opposing, incompatible powers. This becomes evident again and again, for instance when a vigorous wind repeatedly runs through grass and trees or when drumming rain drenches the landscape. Here Man can only watch in amazement, being unable to set something of equal value against the inscrutable elemental forces.
In the closing sequence Man appears at first as if he was embedded in the womb of Nature. Maria, the future mother of Alexei, is lying dreamily in the grass when she is asked by her husband whether she prefers a boy or a girl. But instead of answering his question she is gazing into the distance, and suddenly she sees herself as grandmother, walking across woods and meadows having little Alexei (Ignat?) and his sister by the hand. Then a juvenile Maria appears again, and tears are running along her cheek, but she is smiling at the same time. It seems as if the knowledge of the unstoppable progression of human existence into a single direction (towards old age and death) makes her sad and happy at the same time. She feels grief because of the inevitable loss of youth, but she also rejoices in happy relaxation for she has made out the rules of life as such and has accepted them.
At the end the camera follows the way of the grandmother and her grandchildren for quite a while. But again and again trees interfere and obstruct the view on the humans like gloomy barricades. Until finally both ways separate irredeemably: The humans have disappeared somewhere in the distance whereas the camera shot pans into the dark impenetrability of the forest.
- Is there anything left to say? 7/3/2005 12:00:00 AM by npcoombs
If you have experienced Mirror, and by experience I mean much more than just having watched it (the experience may take multiple viewings to achieve) then you will realise the futility of describing or reviewing this film much in the same way as the inadequacy of a second hand account of a mystical experience.
Tarkovsky was a mystic: although his religious beliefs are well known there is much less acknowledgement of his conception of God. For Tarkovsky God was everywhere and in everything, his (its) presence is felt in the rustling of leaves in the breeze, the burning of wood, the rain falling (and falling, and falling) on damp fields. Humans exist as a sea of melancholy within the infinite beauty and wonder of nature.
Mirror is the closest art has ever been to portraying the mystical experience of one spiritually sensitive individual. The second hand experience can never be as profound as that from your own being. But an odd and sad experience comes from watching Mirror, the belief that your own interpretation of the world will never be so deeply poetic or deep as Tarkovsky's, and the world you see on the cinema screen seems more vivid and alive than real life ever will.