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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect, except for the translation
I've watched my VHS copy of 'Mirror' around ten times and thought I 'knew' the film well enough. But the DVD is a revelation. The different film stocks and treatments -- washed-out colour, sepia, black & white, newsreel -- and Tarkovsky's pared-down images come through crisper than ever.
The sound is the real bonus, though. 'Mirror' mightn't have been recorded in 5:1...
Published on 31 Mar. 2004

versus
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is a very difficult film
The glowing reviews of The Mirror encouraged me to see this film but I found it way above my head. It is beautifully photographed and acted but there in no linearity or discernible story line and I think many others may find it difficult too. I blame myself, not the film, but thought I would put this in to warn others who might not appreciate a highly experimental film...
Published on 6 Aug. 2006 by Dr. R. G. Bullock


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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect, except for the translation, 31 Mar. 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Mirror [DVD] [1975] (DVD)
I've watched my VHS copy of 'Mirror' around ten times and thought I 'knew' the film well enough. But the DVD is a revelation. The different film stocks and treatments -- washed-out colour, sepia, black & white, newsreel -- and Tarkovsky's pared-down images come through crisper than ever.
The sound is the real bonus, though. 'Mirror' mightn't have been recorded in 5:1 surround, but the new audio track reveals a side of the film I didn't even know existed: a deep, almost physiological soundtrack of eerie music and painstakingly placed effects that heightens the oneiric atmosphere by several notches and which was totally lost on VHS. I know there was cross-pollination of ideas between Tarkovsky and Kubrick, and aurally 'Mirror' now appears as a more subtle, subliminal version of '2001'. Unfortunately the closing (opening!) chorus from Bach's St John Passion still sounds distorted; but even that has its charm.
So I now have even greater admiration for what was already the finest film ever made about childhood and memory. Tarkovsky plays and plays on a handful of heart-stoppingly beautiful images, the sort we all have from our earliest youth -- luminous, sublime, terrifying, warming, sad -- the ones we can neither let go of nor fathom. The sense of desperately clinging to something that has lost all meaning is also brilliantly transferred into a series of acerbic, yet necessarily (for the time) oblique political comments. It is probably the most aesthetic film I have ever seen, in the sense of pure consciousness delighting in itself. (Do I pass the Tarkovsky-Fan Waffle Test?)
The only minor quibble is the new translation, which was done by a Russian, seemingly with a Russian-English dictionary. I'm sure it's faithful to the original, but it is sometimes grammatically obtuse and frequently unidiomatic. I don't know why Artificial Eye couldn't reuse the translation on the VHS version. It may be more serious a problem for those who don't already know 'Mirror', but please don't let it put you off one of the most profound artistic experiences you could have on film or elsewhere.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply a Devine Masterpiece of Poetry in Cinema, 4 Jun. 2006
This review is from: Mirror [DVD] [1975] (DVD)
Once said by Tarkovsky to be closest to his own vision of cinema Mirror is a loosely autobiographical reconstruction of key scenes in Tarkovsky's life with her mother's voice being heard and some of the most famous and delicate poems by Arseny Tarkovsky (his father) being recited, accompanied by Bach's sacred music and Pergolese's Stabat Mater.

Here we also find all the usual characteristics of his films, including memorable images of exceptional beauty and the metaphysical themes manifested by indoor rains, running water accompanied by fire, recurring dreams, rediscovered memories of childhood... and extremely long takes that take the viewer's experience of time and change it to give a new sense of time passing, time lost and the relationship of one moment in time to another.

It is hailed as one of Tarkovsky's most poetic films and it is indeed so, hence it should be viewed as one would read a poem, otherwise any attempt to follow the multiple threads of the narration and mapping them into a linear fashion in order to decode the message and comprehend the story would be at best overly demanding and at worst...
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A major 20th century artwork, 25 Mar. 2004
By 
Mr. G. C. Stone "mgcs" (Newcastle, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Mirror [DVD] [1975] (DVD)
I've been back to this again recently after seeing Tarkovsky's work for the first time 20 years ago. Whereas I was a 'fan' the first time, I found this time round that I was profoundly affected and moved and impressed in a way that was far deeper than I could have expected. Don't expect a linear narrative. It's about Tarkovsky's childhood, and relationships with his mother and his wife. It's about Russia and a time. It's about extraordinary images and episodes, and sounds and feelings and sun and countryside and memory. Take what you want from it. This is one of the 20th century's major artists at his peak. You need to experience it and let it seep through you. At the same time, it's worth the entrance money for any number of individual images or any one of the individual episodes. With Tarkovsky, the older you get, the wider and deeper your understanding of the world, the more you get out of his work every time you return.

Or you might think it is overblown, boring, pretentious nonesense. I know which side I'm on.
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56 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Images to invoke emotion., 4 Nov. 2006
By 
René Daumal (Northern Hemisphere) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mirror [DVD] [1975] (DVD)
This is definitely one of the best films I've seen by this director, and I'd just like to highlight one aspect of Tarkovsky's technique for those reviewers who found the film enjoyable but felt that the meaning of it went straight over their heads.

Tarkovsky doesn't use symbolism. He recognises that to attach symbolic meaning to what is seen limits it to only one interpretation - a representation of what is symbolised. Real world events don't have symbolic meaning in themselves, and so Tarkovsky uses pure images which invoke emotions in the viewer, as opposed to a framework of symbols which amount to some hidden meaning behind his films.

This is what makes his films such a joy to watch, all of the beautiful cinematography is there to be appreciated in itself. There is nothing superficial about this, quite the opposite. Tarkovsky's films are accessible to everyone (maybe he was a real communist!), not just aloof art house enthusiasts.

I would also highly recommend 'Stalker' to anyone who is getting into Tarkovsky.
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Have a good look ..., 16 Aug. 2002
This review is from: Mirror [DVD] [1975] (DVD)
The Mirror is one of the most accessible Tarkovsky's films. I can recommend viewers to start with this film before progressing to other Tarkovsky's oeuvre.
Many critics consider Mirror Tarkovsky's autobiography, but it is unquestionably more than that. The film has visual beauty, social pathos, thoughts on the role of Russia in the Western civilization, existential questions and a place for magic in everyday life. I would not like to give detailed examples here: viewing will be less interesting, and part of the wonder of the film is to find these and many other clues on one's own. If the viewer goes on to other Tarkovsky's output, he will be rewarded by many shots and purvasive themes that "travel" from one film to the next and thus constitute undeniable signature of this director.
One very important point I would like to discuss is Tarkovsky's views on Russia. Perhaps, these can be the least understood by Western viewer who enjoy the film while still loosing historical and philosiphical context of Tarkovsky's thinking. Tarkovsky followed Pushkin's contention that Russia played a historical role in the destiny of Western Civilization by stopping Tatar-Mongol aggression from reaching the Western Europe. While havindg stopped the aggression, Russia was broken under its force and had to develop its own unique way of life. In Tarkovsky's opinion, this unique role did not stop with and did not depend on the communist ideology prevailing in Russia at the time. This is a clue for a documentary part in the film where Russian soldiers try to hold a crowd of Maoist Chinese from crossing the Russian border. By the way, documentaries were used by Tarkovsky not as a modernist tool, but as an opportunity to express himself where other means would be disallowed by the USSR regime (this is a response to Mr. Tashiro comment on these documentaries). For example, there is another documentary episode that serves to express a nostalgic feeling for the foreign land (Spain in that case) by Spanish communist refugees to the USSR. Feelings like that were not allowed to be publicly expressed at the time, so documentary was a special tool. Having said all this, the film transcends its own idelology (if you find this ideology unpalatable).
I have certain sympathy with those viewers who would criticise Tarkovsky for somewhat didactic quality of his art. Tarkovsky's films are pushing its spiritual content as well as his view of good and wrong on the viewer directly and without subtlety. One thing to remember though is that his films (and Mirror is no exception) are a lot greater than the sum of ideological / philosophical parts.
Have a good look then...
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent masterpiece, 9 May 2009
By 
Nora Gluckmann "Norita" (Aylesbury,England, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mirror [DVD] [1975] (DVD)
MIRROR- Tarkovsky (DVD)
A magnific masterpiece

Mirror is my favorite film, the best one I have ever seen, the one I like more. Interior richness, amounts of beauty and human quality have no limits. In this masterpiece, you find not only new and extraordinary cinema but poetry, painting, imagination, wonderful images and episodes.
Tarkovsky wanted to build a portrait of himself (as seen in a MIRROR) with his own fantasy, his dreams, some memories, some of his father's poems, episodes of life with his mother and his wife (the same artist),his house - wooden furniture and old lace curtains moved by the wind- his beloved country -green and wide and sunny- its landscapes and colors, some historical facts: an extraordinary refection of his intimate self.
No a plot, not a linear plan to be followed, not a more or less hidden idea to be found.
You are supposed to relax and enjoy it....and perhaps later, dream: if you were in the place of Andrei Tarkovsky and making a film about yourself, your life, your memories, your country landscapes, what images and what episodes, which colors, would you use !
Don't miss it. This film is an unforgettable experience, richer and deeper every time you see it and as time goes by.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At the peak of World Cinema_Tarkovsky's masterpiece., 5 Oct. 2005
This review is from: Mirror [DVD] [1975] (DVD)
This is simply one of the most beautiful films ever made.Now a word of warning (NOW a word of warning?)- it is also one of the most complex and demanding films I have ever seen.It does not offer up all its meaning(s) on first viewing-but then neither does great poetry or music. It is unashamedly autobiographical: Tarkovsky senior's poetry (a lot of it)is read over some of the images and the director's mother plays an important role.
One of those films that repays repeated viewings, it and Zinneman's Member of the Wedding are the two films that I am truly grateful to own. I cannot imagine anyone who loves Cinema not being blown away by this film.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars public health warning, 8 Dec. 2005
By 
H. Thompson (Sanaa. Yemen) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mirror [DVD] [1975] (DVD)
ought to be called 'dream' because once seen never forgotten, it enters the subconscious like a warm flood and stays forever
wholly and stunningly beautiful and seen from a childs eye
it is a garden of youth populated by ghosts, fears, uncertainties, laughter and love
amazing
buy it
you need a big screen because the light is so broad, so huge
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is a very difficult film, 6 Aug. 2006
By 
Dr. R. G. Bullock "Gavin Bullock" (Winchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mirror [DVD] [1975] (DVD)
The glowing reviews of The Mirror encouraged me to see this film but I found it way above my head. It is beautifully photographed and acted but there in no linearity or discernible story line and I think many others may find it difficult too. I blame myself, not the film, but thought I would put this in to warn others who might not appreciate a highly experimental film (my star rating is purely notional). I would encourage anyone to see a work by this distinguised director but you might be totally baffled. This is one for followers of the avant garde.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars “I hate to say it, Andrey, but it is your best film”, 8 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Mirror [DVD] [1975] (DVD)
Mirror (1974) is central to the filmography of Andrey Tarkovsky. Not only is it the fourth of seven remarkable features, but it is the one which says the most about the man and which states the free-flowing meditative and associative tendencies of his mature style most clearly and, arguably, most successfully. The film takes pride of place in Tarkovsky’s marvelous book of reflections on cinema Sculpting in Time. In chapter 5 he deals with the various aspects of film making – the film image; time, rhythm and editing; scenario and shooting script; the film’s graphic realization; the film actor; music and noises – and illustrates his points by referring almost exclusively to Mirror. Furthermore, all the texts and paintings featured in the film – his father’s poems (read in the film by Arseny Tarkovsky himself), Leonardo's paintings and drawings, Pushkin’s 1836 letter to Pyotr Chaadayev – are all reproduced in the book. Clearly Mirror was very important for Tarkovsky and he was intensely proud of it. He says, “I had made up my mind that in this film, for the first time, I would use the means of cinema to talk of all that was most precious to me, and to do so directly, without playing any tricks”. There’s no doubt that he considered it his greatest achievement. He even quotes Vadim Yusov the cameraman who had turned down the chance to shoot the film: “It is true that afterwards, when the film had been shot by Georgi Rerberg, he once admitted to me, ‘I hate to have to say it, Andrey, but it is your best film’”. And indeed, who are we to disagree? For me it is not only his best film, but the best film ever made period.

As other reviews posted here show, my view is not shared by everyone and I want to use this space to state the case for Mirror’s greatness as clearly as possible. For Tarkovsky’s critics it is the film which most fuels the standard accusations about his work being ‘difficult’, ‘obscure’, ‘pretentious’, ‘esoteric’, and ‘impenetrable’. I think it’s important to understand that these accusations come from people who do not (perhaps cannot) reach out for an emotional poetic understanding. Perhaps blinded by the prevailing tendency of most cinema (even that of most other great directors) to communicate in terms of self-contained stories which resolve themselves by the films’ closure, their response is purely intellectual rather than emotional. Tarkovsky’s films start from the point of view that life or reality can never be related in self-contained logical stories – “the usual logic, that of linear sequentiality, is uncomfortably like the proof of a geometry theorem. As a method it is incomparably less fruitful artistically than the possibilities opened up by associative thinking, which allows for an affective as well as a rational response”. Reality is best approached obliquely in a way that encourages (necessitates) the audience take an active role in the film’s process. He said: “Through poetic connections feeling is heightened and the spectator is made more active. He becomes a participant in the process of discovering life, unsupported by ready-made deductions from the plot or ineluctable pointers by the author”. In this way a film such as Mirror which seems to be so complex and impenetrable intellectually is actually very simple if approached emotionally and empathetically. As one Leningrad factory worker wrote in a letter to Tarkovsky: “My reason for writing is Mirror, a film I can’t even talk about because I am living it”. This simplicity means that for the director anyone, even children, can watch this film and get something from it. People are born with an innate ability to appreciate art and if they have a spiritual or poetic propensity then intellectual acuity is certainly not a prerequisite for understanding his films – “Anyone who wants can look at my films as into a mirror, in which he will see himself”. This last point is the key to unlocking the mysteries of this marvelous film.

I have to admit to being flummoxed by Mirror when I first saw it as a teenager. Compared to the traditional linear narrative structures of films like Ivan’s Childhood (1962), Solaris (1972) and even the later meditative/associative films (Stalker [1979], Nostalghia [1983] and The Sacrifice [1986]) the film seemed to jump willfully all over the place in terms of both time and place. Characterization seemed muddled and the plethora of obscure arty references coupled with the poetry recitation on the soundtrack alienated me. Nevertheless, there were scenes of the most exquisite jaw-dropping beauty that drew me back repeatedly to attempt an understanding. I have now seen the film countless times and can say that while it still triumphantly defies a complete understanding (it follows Goethe's dictum: "The less accessible a work is to the intellect, the greater it is"), there is a clear narrative shape to the film rendered with impeccable poetic logic. The ‘story’ of the film can be summarized and I recommend reading the analysis in Johnson and Petrie’s outstanding book, The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue. They accurately summarize the film and correct the great many mistakes made by confused critics and writers in various other publications. For me emotion triumphs over intellect here and I won't attempt to parrot their work. Instead I will first outline the basic narrative framework of the film and place the key scenes within it. I hope this will make the film a little less intimidating to watch for the uninitiated. Then I will attempt a brief analysis of my own.

In essence Mirror is Tarkovsky’s autobiography as narrated by the subject as an adult (named 'Alexei' and voiced by Innokenty Smoktunovsky) who stays off-screen throughout. The film is set in Russia and spans three time periods – 1935-39 (the scary time of Stalin's purges), 1941-45 (the Great Patriotic War), and 1974 (the present day). In the present Alexei is living in an urban apartment. He has a series of bitter conversations with his ex-wife Natalya (Margarita Terekhova) mainly about the welfare of their son Ignat (Ignat Daniltsev). Key events at this time are the film's prologue which has Ignat watching a man being cured of his stammer on TV, a family gathering of Spanish émigrés, and a ghost scene where a mysterious old lady makes Ignat read Pushkin. In the earliest period (1935-39) we see Alexei as an infant living in the country with his mother Masha (also played by Margarita Terekhova). Here we have the encounter between the mother and a doctor (Anatoly Solonitsyn) who has lost his way, the burning barn, the presence and absence (mostly the absence) of Alexei's father (Oleg Yankovsky), and a long scene in a printing house where the mother works. In the period 1941-45 we see the teenaged Alexei also played by Ignat Daniltsev. Margarita Terekhova is still the mother. The main events of this period are the recalling of Alexei's first love (a girl with red hair and chapped lips) walking in the snow, the firing range sequence where a wounded war veteran is teased by his pupils (Alexei among them), and the long visit to a rich doctor's wife (Larissa Tarkovskaya – the director's second wife) in which the mother sells her ear-rings and is prevailed upon to decapitate a chicken. All three periods merge as one in the film's concluding epilogue which comes to center on the mother in her dotage (Maria Tarkovskaya – Tarkovsky's own mother) who we have glimpsed throughout the film and here ends up surrounded by her children/grandchildren playing outside the family dacha.

As an anchor to these three time periods and their events which are cut up and related a-chronologically with only the logic of dream and memory to connect them, Tarkovsky deploys quite astounding real newsreel footage arranged in chronological order so that we always know where we are. The eight sequences are as follows – the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), the Soviet army launching hot air balloons (1930s – year unspecified), Moscow May Day parade (1939), the Soviet army crossing Lake Sivash (1943), the liberation of Prague (1945), bomb explosions in Berlin and Hitler's charred remains (1945), the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima (1945), and finally huge crowds in China waving their Red Books and their portraits of Chairman Mao followed by Soviet troops constraining Chinese demonstrators on Damansk Island (1959). These sequences are put into historical context by the important scene of Ignat reading Pushkin's letter to Chaadayev – a vital document in the Westerner-Slavophile debate that dominated the Russian intelligentsia in the 19th century. Chaadayev was a Westerner who believed Russia should develop a political system along the lines of those of Europe. Pushkin's position was that Russia should be proud of her own heritage and traditions and should follow her own way even though she is eternally squeezed between two dominating cultures – Europe to the west and the Tartars/Mongols/Chinese to the east. Significantly perhaps Ignat starts to read Rousseau's view on the merits of scientific vs artistic ways of understanding existence – a concern central to the films that surround Mirror (Solaris and Stalker). Ignat is cut off by the old woman and forced to read Pushkin as if to say Mirror is about something even more important than that for Tarkovsky. The general effect of all this is to extend the film beyond mere personal autobiography towards a history of Russia. Shot with a poetic visual palette that shifts from color to b/w through sepia and beyond, the film consists of a series of memories and dreams which merge together freely and skip around these three time periods with the iconic newsreel footage without any apparent logic. General themes are meditated upon and the audience is invited to freely associate with the material in their own chosen way. We are asked to participate "in the process of discovering life" as Tarkovsky would have it in a history of Russia told in personal terms through the memories, dreams and poetry of one man and his family.

So far, so self-indulgent one might say, and yet the genius of Mirror lies not in WHAT is said, but in the WAY it is said. Tarkovsky convinces us throughout that the total experience is as relevant to us as it is to Russians and members of the Tarkovsky family. Somehow he enters our inner selves and conveys feelings and emotions that are completely our own. This can be the only explanation for my being so profoundly moved whenever I reacquaint myself with this masterpiece. Tarkovsky says: "I am firmly convinced of one thing: That if an author is moved by the landscape chosen, if it brings back memories to him and suggests associations, even subjective ones, then it will in turn affect the audience with particular excitement". For Mirror he rebuilt his childhood house in the country exactly the way it was in the 1930s and in exactly the same place. Not only that, he replanted the field in front of it with the buckwheat that grew there during that time. This created a very special atmosphere for the crew. "What she [my mother] experienced was a return to her past; and then I knew we were moving in the right direction. The house awoke in her the feelings which the film was intended to express". Because the feelings evoked in the people making the film are so powerful we in the audience can't help but empathize strongly with them. The essence of what Tarkovsky was aiming at in Mirror lies in the following: "In the end we were saved by one thing alone – faith: the belief that since our work was so important to us it could not but become equally important to the audience. The film aimed at reconstructing the lives of people whom I loved dearly and knew well. I wanted to tell the story of the pain suffered by one man because he feels he cannot repay his family for all they have given him. He feels he hasn't loved them enough, and this idea torments him and will not let him be". Sounds familiar doesn't it? These are obviously universal feelings that I think we can all empathize with and constitute our quest to wipe the slate clean and start again by loving more. Communing with this film is akin to opening our own hearts and souls to see fundamental truths latent within all of us.

The feeling that Tarkovsky is conveying universal emotions is shown by the events the film depicts. Take the opening scene of the mother sitting on the fence waiting it seems for someone to come. She watches a man gradually walk towards her across the field. The narrator suggests that she is waiting for her husband (the narrator's father) to return. For Russians familiar with the 1930s this refers to the disappearance of thousands of people during Stalin's purges and the resulting feelings of loneliness and nostalgia. However as she talks to the doctor we realize she is not married – she doesn't wear a wedding band. We see her sleeping children behind and know her loneliness may be caused by single parenthood brought on by divorce. This is autobiographical – Tarkovsky's parents divorced when he was young. But as the doctor flirts with the attractive divorcée showing off his intelligence by referring to Chekhov's short story Ward 6 we realize that the scene which refers to the absent fathers of thousands afflicted by the purges and to Tarkovsky's own autobiography also refers to any woman in any society who is lonely and recently divorced. As the doctor walks away and stands in the field turning back to look at the mother we acknowledge the pathos of the situation existing on three levels at the same time. The printing house sequence works in the same way. Masha rushes into a printing factory convinced she has made a proof-reading mistake. Mistakes in Stalinist Russia were met with severe punishment and as she talks to her colleague Lisa (Alla Demidova ), her boss (Nikolai Grinko) and the frightened secretary we see that Russians would empathize with her plight having all been victims to some extent of Stalin themselves. We see Tarkovsky's family would empathize with what is a true incident even down to the argument where Lisa accuses Masha of being like Maria Timofeyevna (the snobby wife of Captain Lebyadkin in Dostoyevsky's The Devils). We also see non-Russians would empathize with the plight of any worker trapped in authoritarian working conditions.

The film's main background event is of course the Great Patriotic War that came to assume such symbolic importance for a nation that lost over 20 million people, but of course people from all countries who have survived wars will empathize with the effects of war as presented here. Two sequences dominate this part of the narrative – the firing range scene and the visit to the doctor's wife. The first is introduced by the boy Alexei looking at his first love – on one level the archetypal image of any boy's first love and on another perhaps the beauty that the war destroyed. Then we see the military instructor (Yuri Nazarov) controlling his students. One boy named Afasyev refuses to obey the 'about turn' command. We sympathize with his poor instructor, but when it's revealed that the boy's parents have been killed in the siege of Leningrad (a legendary event in the war depicting Russian resistance) our sympathy switches to the boy. When he hurls a fake grenade which the instructor shields from the students thinking it is live (effectively sacrificing himself for them) we understand both sides and the harrowing effect the war had on the nation. Similarly in the visit paid on the doctor's wife we can see the sacrifice of Masha (having to sell her ear-rings for food and having to kill the chicken against her will) as well as the needs of the doctor's wife. It is not necessary to be Russian for us to empathize with characters surviving the war. The newsreel footage also broadens the relevance. We see events in other countries, but even the footage of Soviet troops crossing Lake Sivash is universal. It is noteworthy that this post-Stalingrad footage was taken when Russia was winning the war, but it still shows a miserable picture of humanity trudging through a quagmire. War is an evil for victors and losers alike.

Tarkovsky no doubt chose the events of his film (including the newsreel footage) to universalize the total effect, but what really intensifies our empathy is the elusive way all events are inter-cut and blurred into one another to encourage an associative response. The film's structure can be compared to a series of mirrors reflected within mirrors and has encouraged some (Mark Le Fanu for example) to compare the film to a cubist painting. The biggest 'framing' mirror if you like is the totality of the film itself which reflects Tarkovsky's own autobiography. Beyond that, each character is reflected in different time periods. Natalya and Masha are both played by Margarita Terekhova while Ignat and the adolescent Alexei are both played by Ignat Daniltsev. Both Masha and Natalya are mirrored in turn by the reality of Maria Tarkovskaya, the very character they are playing. When Masha looks into a mirror early on in the film, Maria looks back at her. Later when Natalya looks at a photograph of herself beside Maria she remarks on their similarity. Similarly both Ignat and the young Alexei behave in exactly the same way. They are both portrayed by the off-screen narrator as dullish 'boobies' reflecting the narrator's own highly critical opinion of himself. This is emphasized by Ignat's reaction to being asked if he wants to live with his father or not and then later when the young Alexei accompanies his mother to visit the doctor's wife. He sits in the dark looking at his own reflection in a wall mirror without thinking of fixing the faulty gas light. And indeed, the mise-en-scène of Mirror is littered with mirrors and highly reflective surfaces which show events as if through several pairs of eyes. Most striking is the early dream sequence where the young Alexei remembers his mother washing her hair in a bowl of water. In a dank, eerie room typical of Tarkovsky's style she stands shaking her head in slow motion, her long hair pouring down over her face looking like a demented monster. Suddenly the mother isn't there and the room is shown with the ceiling collapsing down, water everywhere. Huge mirrors dominate the walls. Earlier the vision of the burning barn is introduced through reflections in glass and metal before the camera moves outside to showcase one of Tarkovsky's most famous images – the barn ablaze in the pouring rain as the main characters stand around and watch, the bucket clanking emptily against the side of a well to eerie effect – it's just the kind of touch a child would remember. The combination of the four elements is by now a given in every Tarkovsky film and doesn't need to be pointed out, but both the mother with the hair hanging down and the barn ablaze with the most magical flames showcase what the power of dreams and memory can do to one's imagining of past events. It is as if real events are 'reflected' through the mirror of dreams and memories to give Tarkovsky exactly what he wanted in this film. Make no mistake, this film is full of the most amazing results of this – the military instructor's brain pulsing violently through his shattered skull as he 'saves' his students, the mother levitating over a bed in mid-air as a bird flies obliquely across the top right corner of the screen, another bird 'blessing' Afasyev by alighting on his head, or simply the absent father present in the breeze that blows through the trees. The biggest mirror of course is the film itself in which we see various aspects of ourselves writ large by Tarkovsky's stupendous visual imagination.

In addition to the sheer richness of what we see there is the perfection of what we hear throughout this film. Carefully selected pieces of music by Bach, Purcell and Pergolesi are woven into an electronic score by Eduard Artemyev in a truly startling way. Examples are too many to mention here, but I have to highlight the sequence where the Spanish émigré girl flamenco dances in Alexei's apartment. This cues up a startling sequence of images from the Spanish Civil War with the same music playing. Bombs fall, civilians rush for shelter and children wait at the dock to be evacuated. The sequence finishes on a heartbreaking shot of a cute girl clutching a teddy bear and looking into the camera. Cut to the Soviet army flying hot air balloons and the start of the concluding 'Quando corpus morietur' of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater. Just as the chorus enters Tarkovsky cuts to the Moscow May Day parade celebration. The destruction of war is followed by two positive scenes, the most joyous of which shown to the following words associated with the Ascension: "While my body here is lying / let my soul be swiftly flying / to Thy glorious Paradise". The music is here used brilliantly to opposite effect both to acknowledge the destruction of what has happened and also to anticipate the horror of what is to come. Another amazing sequence has the return of Alexei's father done to a burst from Bach's St. John Passion. As the father tearfully embraces his children we hear "There was an earthquake, the rocks split, and the graves opened and many of God's people arose from sleep" (Matthew 27:51-52). The return of the father comes as a resurrection not only of himself, but also of the feelings of his children and his wife whose face is compared directly with the face of Leonardo's Portrait of a Young Woman with a Juniper Twig in the very next shot. The Bach here is distorted by Artemyev to render an extraordinary oneiric effect. In fact Artemyev's 'electronic noises' are highly effective in rendering much of the film mystical and dream-like – the mother washing her hair followed by the collapsing room, the depiction of the troops crossing Lake Sivash and the sinister depiction of thousands of portraits of Chairman Mao, and most startling of all perhaps during the ghost scene when Ignat reads Pushkin. After the ghost of the old woman vanishes a circle of wet moisture left by a cup gradually disappears from the table top as the music wells up to a deafening crescendo. The effect leaves a lasting impression and cements the importance of the Pushkin reading that precedes it. Without the noise surely the reading may well have just flit by without notice. Most satisfying of all perhaps is the way the film concludes by bringing the characters of all three time periods together as one outside the dacha. Alexei's parents lie on the grass. The mother is pregnant with soon to be born Alexei and the father asks, "Do you want a boy or girl?" As we hear "Lord, our master, whose glory fills the whole earth" (the opening chorus from Bach's St. John Passion) Tarkovsky's camera explores the area around the house and we see all the characters at one in happy communion with nature. This amounts to an expression of the narrator's dearest hope that he can start again and this time show his loved ones the love they truly deserve. It is the spiritually-affirming hugely satisfying conclusion to a truly astonishing work of art.

I'm not sure words can do this film justice and I'm left feeling vaguely dissatisfied with what I have written here. Anyway, I strongly urge you to check out this Artificial Eye DVD. This is the first Russico version which boasts excellent visuals (aspect ratio 4:3) and superb mono sound. Interesting extras boost even further what is a mandatory purchase for anyone interested in cinema as an art form.
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Mirror [DVD] [1975]
Mirror [DVD] [1975] by Andrei Tarkovsky (DVD - 2002)
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