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The Mirror

January 5, 2011

581. Zerkalo (The Mirror)
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
USSR, 1975
IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Ally
First viewing


A loosely autobiographical work comprising the childhood memories of director Andrei Tarkovsky, poems written and recited by his father Arseny Tarkovsky, apparent dream sequences and newsreel footage, all presented in a non-linear fashion.

The film depicts Alexei in childhood and adulthood. Young Alexei (Ignat Daniltsev) watches a burning barn near his childhood home. He attends rifle training and irritates the instructor. His mother (Margarita Terekhova) is seen working as a proofreader at a printing press.

Adult Alexei disagrees with his ex-wife (also played by Terekhova) about the custody of their child Ignat (also played by Daniltsev). Ignat leafs through a book which we later see young Alexei had stolen on the day his father returned from the war. In a dream sequence, the mother is seen levitating over a bed.


The films of Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky are more like environments than entertainments. It’s often said they’re too long, but that’s missing the point: He uses length and depth to slow us down, to edge us out of the velocity of our lives, to enter a zone of reverie and meditation. When he allows a sequence to continue for what seems like an unreasonable length, we have a choice. We can be bored, or we can use the interlude as an opportunity to consolidate what has gone before, and process it in terms of our own reflections.

~ Roger Ebert, in his review of Solaris

I have experienced Tarkovsky’s deliberate, meditative style before, having enjoyed his mysterious and atmospheric science-fiction film Stalker. That film is indeed an “environment” — a desolate yet compelling one. That did not prepare me for The Mirror, which abandons traditional narrative altogether and thoroughly alienated me.

The cinematography is undeniably beautiful, and there are some memorable images — the levitating mother, for example. But thanks to the non-linear structure, I often found myself confused as to who the characters were and their relationships to each other. This wasn’t helped by the fact that both Margarita Terekhova and Ignat Daniltsev play multiple roles.

Oh I see, the characters mirror each other! That’s… interesting?

I feel bad starting the New Year with a bemused shrug of a review, but there you go. Perhaps I was simply not in the right mood to receive the film. Or perhaps it’s just not for me.

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