Mirror ★★★½

As I was watching "The Mirror," I had the distinct impression that director Andrei Tarkovsky was creating a kind of connect-the-dots puzzle for us, whereby the full picture can be comprehended only when all of the dots have been linked in order. Among the "dots" he presents are very common images: water, leaves rustling in the wind, flame, pieces of fabric, milk, birds and mirrors, both actual and metaphorical, as wife becomes a reflection of mother, son becomes a reflection of father, and age becomes a reflection of youth.

Hinting at the direction in which the dots connect is poetry written by Arseniy Tarkovskiy, the director's father. And we can presume the subject of the puzzle is none other than Andrei Tarkovsky himself. One glaring clue is a poster of the director's 1966 film "Andrei Rublev," which can be clearly seen on a wall in one of the scenes. The resulting film is a very personal reflection of the film-maker. But I'm afraid that in order to clearly recognize the "big picture" image, it is necessary to be quite familiar with its creator and, alas, this is only my second exposure to Tarkovsky's work.

I should mention that the story, such as it is, concerns a dying 40-year-old man identified as Aleksei and his remembrances stretching from impoverished youth to the break-up of his marriage and alienation of his son Ignat. Of special interest, Tarkovsky's real-life wife Larisa Tarkovskaya plays 12-year-old Aleksei's mother.

"The Mirror" is a beautiful film, with credit going to Georgi Rerberg as cinematographer. The music by Eduard Artemev is appropriately captivating. Despite the many concrete images, including newsreel footage of the Spanish Civil War, World War II and the Sino-Soviet border conflict, the overall atmosphere is ephemeral, dreamlike. I know I will need to give this highly fragmented narrative another viewing after I see more of Tarkovsky's films, and perhaps then I'll be able to rate it as highly as others have.

Part of my 5 Directors x 5 Unseen Films challenge.

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