An alluring, loosely autobiographical drama.
The Mirror (1975) is an alluring, loosely autobiographical drama by Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky. Tarkovsky used several aspects of his childhood (his mother’s occupation as a proofreader in a printing press, his distant parents, and experiencing the evacuation of Moscow during World War II) to create a story not only reflecting the main character’s life and his relationships with his family, but the hardships of his Russian homeland.
Innokenti Smoktunovsky stars as Aleksei, a character that is never seen. He serves as the narrator of his tale as he takes the viewer through his last moments while reflecting on the memories stored within of his mother Maroussia, wife Natalya, (Margarita Terekhova fills the roles of both women) and son (Ignat Daniltsev). Three time periods are covered: prewar, wartime, and the postwar 1960s. Since Aleksei’s father left their family during wartime at a young age, his innocence began to deteriorate. Training as a sniper during the war continued his dreary path, and the events that unfolded around him in the outside world helped to shape the distance he would project onto his family.
The film does not have a definitive plot (it is in the style of stream of consciousness) the displaced scenes compliment the path of Aleksei’s wandering mind, and sways from colorful film to monochrome–fitting the varying ambiance. Similar to The Tree of Life, many scenes in The Mirror were breathtaking and filled with great symbology and emotion; one of the most striking being the wind blowing through the brush near Aleksei’s childhood home. Arseni Tarkovsky reciting his poems is one of many of the film’s highlights–true words of beauty corresponding to the yearning of final release of the narrator from his pain.
However, Tarkovsky’s words (in partnership with several references to time) present a simple message of halting once in awhile in order to admire the beauty around us, whether they be seen as tragic or beautiful. Aleksei could be viewed as a representative of not only Russians and their tumultuous history, but people as a whole undergoing the ups and downs of life. There is a sense of cherishing treasures, either great or small, in The Mirror.
Another wonderful element of the film is the ability to interpret it; however, one wishes–the imagery is bound to affect each viewer differently. It may have to be watched several times, every time having the potential for a deeper meaning to emerge. Characters portrayed by the same performers could represent the passing down of the issues of the previous generation to the following.
Unfortunately, some of the dialogue isn’t translated into English and does not distract from the elegance of Tarkovsky’s writings read aloud while the masterpieces of Johann Sebastian Bach, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, and Henry Purcell accompany the stunning footage. The Mirror is a film that proposes if beauty can still be found in sadness and requires full attention to be understood, but worth it.