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Mirror, The (1974)


Genre: Drama (USSR)

Starring: Margarita TerekhovaFilipp Yankovskiy

Directed By: Andrei Tarkovsky (SolarisStalker)

Overview: A dying man in his forties remembers his past. His childhood, his mother, the war, personal moments and things that tell of the recent history of all the Russian nation. - IMDb

Director Andrei Tarkovsky and I have never really genuinely gotten along. He's long and drawn out, he's ‘pastoral’, which is a nice way of saying that he often has long, rolling, meditative shots of the countryside but with zero content. Granted, I’ve only actually seen his The Mirror and Stalker, but Stalker burned away so much of my goodwill that I couldn’t climb back onto the Tarkovsky-wagon until I learned that he made a couple of movies that I’m actually interested in seeing in spite of its director: Solaris and Andrey Rublyov… which I have yet to screen.

The Mirror isn’t a story with a plot, it’s a series of slice-of-life vignettes – the recounted memories of a man’s life, mostly of his childhood and his mother. It’s told with archive war footage, colour film and slow-motion black-and-white dream sequence shots while poetry is narrated. Moments include the visit of a doctor on his way to town, a barn fire, shooting practice at school and the mother working at a newspaper.

Tarkovsky - thus far in my experience, and definitely the case with The Mirror - is definitely art-house cinema for the elite. His movies are for fans of Kieslowski, Fellini, Ozu and Bergman. Specifically, The Mirror is for the patient cinephiles who like to dwell on the honest minutia of the real stories of real people – in short it’s for people who aren’t me. Of course, like those other directors, The Mirror has occasional gorgeous shots and images rife with beautiful symbolism, but not nearly enough to make me happy. My favourite parts of The Mirror were those wonderfully indulgent scenes where poetry was narrated. I found the poetry beautiful, and the images that accompanied them were the best and most artistic of the film, usually because they were so lovingly crafted. And again, sadly, they were too few and far between to keep me entertained.

In all, considering the context of how this film crossed my path - as assignment for the 1001 Movies Club, I don’t imagine The Mirror is Tarkovsky’s best work and not nearly genius enough to be in the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book. Tarkovsky’s already got three other films in the 1001 Movies list, and I dare say he’s overrepresented.

When I started watching The Mirror, I knew that it would be more as homework than enjoyment. I had the patience of my 40 years but I got exactly what I was expecting. For those of you who like watching the common tales of a common people, enjoy, but I like a bit more Drama in my drama. For me, The Mirror is too slow and plotless to recommend to anyone but the snobbiest of cinephiles.


Performance: 8 Cinematography: 8 Script: 6 Plot: 5 Mood: 6

Overall Rating: 66% (After Some Reflection)

Ultimately, it’s unfortunate when you can distill 108 minutes of someone’s vision into the Overview above, check it off the ‘Seen it’ pile and move on with a shrug.

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