Mirror ★★★

First Tarkovsky film I ever watched: This is sin. 

You do not introduce anyone to Kid A until they’ve experienced Ok Computer. Likewise, you do not introduce anyone to THE MIRROR until they’ve seen every other one of his films. 

I suggest THE MIRROR be watched last for several reasons. 

First, ease your way into Tarkovsky’s glacially-paced style. Long, extended scenes are meant to slow down this MTV generation. He’s creating a meditative mood, and here it can be most exhausting.

Second, know this is profoundly autobiographical. It’s easier to slip under its spell when you’ve had a taste of his earlier work. All prior meditations on Russian history, culture, politics, and identity culminate into something very personal in THE MIRROR.

The result will be a highly non-linear, surreal rumination on the intimate details of Tarkovsky’s life. His childhood during WWII. His family abandoning their home in Moscow during the war. His father leaving to join the fight. 

This all jacked him up bad.

Third, the film hallucinates images that self-reflexively point to Tarkovskys later life when he fled Russia entirely. He was an exile too grieved by a warring Soviet Union — its doublespeak and censorship. It’s missable if you don’t see this theme grow early on.

Fourth, all these events haunt his work and they’re easier accessed elsewhere. When you see how these events permutate and translate cinematically from film to film into memories, dreams, and emotional exile, you see THE MIRROR with a more lucid context and how it fits within Tarkovsky’s canon.

Finally, fifth, this film is just very, very heavy. You need to exercise some Tarkovskian muscles to lift up and bear its biographically fat mood. You do that by starting with anything but THE MIRROR as your first Tarkovsky watch. Make it your last.