The Mirror Review

An artist considers his relationships with his parents and with his wife and young son.

by David Parkinson |
Published on
Release Date:

07 Mar 1975

Original Title:

The Mirror

Inspired by a recurring dream of the house in which he was born, Andrei Tarkovsky's fourth feature began its life in 1964, as a proposed novella about childhood. However, by the time he and Alexander Misharin completed the script for Confession in 1968, the emphasis had shifted away from youth and on to motherhood. When Mosfilm rejected the project, Tarkovsky reworked the material into the short story, `A White Day', which was published in 1970 and prompted producer-director Grigori Chukhrai to commission a screenplay.

Aware that this was his most personal picture and sensing that it would also be his most artistically significant, Tarkovsky found the film very difficult to make. He constantly revised the text during the protracted shooting process and then produced 20 different edits, with Ludmilla Feiginova. But while he was eventually satisfied with his work, the authorities were not. Thus, branded an `artistic failure', Mirror was released with no fanfare in 1975 and its subsequent international acclaim proved something of an embarrassment for Goskino.

Divided into three main timeframes - the 1930s, the Second World War and the present - the film used alternating colour and monochrome sequences to convey a series of memories and dreams whose poignancy and lyricism was intensified by the verse and classical music on the soundtrack. Even newsreels of historical events like the Spanish Civil War and the Cultural Revolution and such Soviet landmarks as the 1934 balloon record attempt and Chkalov's 1937 flight over the North Pole were employed to bind the historical and the personal in this spellbinding life of a mind.

However, Tarkovsky doesn't always make it clear whose visions we are sharing and whose voice his poet father Arsenii is supposed to represent. Consequently, this has always been considered a difficult watch. Regardless of its dense intellectual and autobiographical content, however, Mirror can still be appreciated as an attempt to capture the human soul and to show that, for all our diverse individual experiences, we still have much in common on an emotional and spiritual level.

The most autobiographical of Russian director Andrei Tarkovskyís movies, Mirror really is poetry in motion.
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