Mirror ★★★★★

Today, my school decided to present a screening of Tarkovsky’s masterpiece Mirror. An admirable idea for sure but perhaps a misconstrued attempt. It was quite clear that for many this was a first meeting with Tarkovsky and in all honesty Mirror is not the best place to start. Most remarks during the viewing were based on the beautiful cinematography which was clearly revered, but the number of walkouts and confused grunts showed that ultimately few were really understanding what they were seeing.

Now, I’m not pretending that I understand every twist and turn in this film nor do I fully understand any of Tarkovsky’s works (but that also gives it a great rewatch value), but I also don’t think one necessarily has to. The mere experience of a Tarkovsky-film could be enough to appreciate it. It’s true that almost any of his films is easier to understand. Mirror’s nonchronological narrative is a confusing one, especially when seen for the first time. This film is one that works on an associative level. It is, in the end, a film about memories and in the fluid nature of memories, the film opts for an approach that’s geared more towards emotions. It is the feeling that the combination of image and sound provokes that is Tarkovsky’s main concern. The story, after all, is a highly personal account based on his own early life. It is meant to evoke his feelings and his experiences. Thereby many of the scenes on their own don’t follow a usual scene-structure. The film switches between black-and-white and color cinematography at random, falls into lengthy moments of slow-motion and certain sequences (namely a shot of the wind blowing through a bunch of bushes) is repeated throughout the film. To make matters even more complicated, there are many moments where the film becomes truly abstract and unreliable as memories start to break down (e.g. people appear and disappear) and moments of magical realism get infused.

Especially on a first watch, this may come off as a truly daunting film and even on a second watch, I have to admit it needs your full attention to keep track of it all and to let the whole experience fully sink in. I also believe that much of the film can only be understood through a lot of post-viewing musing. It’s definitely not a film that can be understood right away yet flourishes most when analyzed and studied in hindsight. And after all, even when not understood it can’t be denied that this film is a work of great beauty with a legacy already spanning over four decades. For me personally, there are few films that I could enjoy more, if only for its unique stature in the whole of cinema.

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