Mirror ★★★★★

It's a masterpiece and I'm not entirely sure why.

Andrei Tarkovsky's The Mirror is one of those rare films that strikes a genuine chord with me on a gut level and holds that impact for the entirety of its duration, despite a lingering sense of confusion concerning the individual parts. I previously held the famed Russian director in cautious admiration. I respected his work, but I felt as though I was at a distance, completely unable to penetrate his style. I am very glad to say that this spell was broken by The Mirror. Never before have I been so enchanted, or, more appropriately, so hypnotized by a Tarkovsky film. It had me from the first shot and through all the beauty and bewilderment that the film contains, I was glued to the screen, drawn in ever more by Tarkovsky's floating camera and repeatedly bowled over by the sequences he constructs.

Any attempt at a plot description is irrelevant for this film, as it might be the most non-linear piece of work I've ever witnessed (and that takes into account the fact that I've seen Un Chien Andalou!). Names and relationships are unimportant, but faces and environments are. There's little to do with the progression of events or a building narrative. Characters are weaved in and out of scenes, arriving at different ages in different moments, sometimes within the same scene. Details are clearly not the point of this film and it makes sense that my reaction to it comes mainly from a gut level. The emotions of the experience make up the main thrust and how the viewer positions themselves in that experience determines whether The Mirror will yield epiphanies or detached daydreaming.

I mean to make no pretensions in my discussion of this, but as I understood it, the film is about time. It engages with temporality in a way that forces the viewer to consider the eternity of feeling that exists in a single moment. It's use of slow-motion brings supposed images of the past into a realm of unreality that highlights the precious value of memory and the uneasy twilight zone that exists between dreams and concrete, material being.

As the film neared its end, I finally began to understand the weight of its structure. A fragmented dream is truly the state in which it functions...It's a recurring dream, half-recalled, ebbing and flowing with subconscious matter, unveiling new shades of feeling with each pass until the greatest truth appears suddenly and with shocking clarity.

The Mirror is personal to Tarkovsky, concerning his own memories and dreams, but it has the power to persuade the audience into thinking that the dream is shared. I have no connection to Russia or the era that the director is depicting, so I was surprised to discover my own visceral engagement to the story being told. The film came to me like something once known long ago, but largely forgotten...an ornate mirror partially buried, the sun only occasionally skimming its corners, catching its reflection. With this film, Tarkovsky unearths the ancient heirloom, revealing the memories to be not simply a souvenir of psychological tourism, but the first and final pieces of the puzzle that is our adult consciousness.

It's a masterpiece and having taken the first steps of processing it...I think I'm starting to know why.

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