Mirror ★★★½

Lise and Jonnie's What A Wonderful World 2015

I’m going to dash off some quick thoughts right now, just after finishing the screening, as if I don’t I fear I’ll never write a word about it.

I’m a relative Tarkovsky neophyte, having only seen Stalker and Solaris, both of which I loved. Philosophical musings imprinted on a narrative that is both set close to home, and far away in a distant place and time is near and dear to my heart, as it’s what I consider the essence of hard science fiction.

The Mirror isn’t the Tarkovsky I had come to expect with my previous viewings. I must admit up front that I found the first thirty minutes or so extremely challenging, as my brain spun trying to find a purchase. I began to come to the realization that there was none, and none was in sight. At that point I decided to let go and allow it to wash over me, much like I do when I first see a Malick film. From that point on, I began to like it; it began to drag me along in its own way through this bizarre lucid dream.

The film worked best for me when it was the most abstract; images and the wind, reclaimed war footage foleyd with the sounds of boots in mud, or wading through the water. Grainy photography from the days where sound could not be preserved were strangely evocative with their new found resonance. Likewise the images layered with spoken poetry almost touched me. I could feel Tarkovsky reaching out, but the contact wasn’t quite made. The closest I got was when I stopped reading the subtitles, and just listened to the music of the verse.

What didn’t work for me was exactly what I loved in the previous Tarkovsky’s I’ve watched, the spoken word. Natalya / Maroussia endless musings seemed pointless without the slimmest of narrative to anchor it to. I kept thinking how could words have subtext when they have no context? I can appreciate that this is what dreams and memory are like, but unlike Tree of Life or To the Wonder, there was no spark for me. The words were cold when they should have been warm.

Tarkovsky is certainly bold, and I appreciate how his dreamlike memories try and wrap themselves around you, but at this very moment, minutes after the fade to black, I’ll have to declare that it didn’t touch me. I don’t think musing on it will help, as this type of experience is usually all or nothing for me on first viewing. I’ll never say never, though, and maybe wander down this path again after a few more visits with Tarkovsky on solid ground.

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