Tarkovsky’s opening scene in Mirror serves not only as a fascinating way to set the mood but a way of easing in the viewer as well. Have doubts about this Russian film that will no doubt be heavy and philosophical? This woman will clear your mind of your doubts and roadblocks.
A small, nervous looking woman sits on a fence, smoking. A man comes by, bothers her, breaks her fence, and falls in love. When he leaves, we hear him recite poetry over an exquisitely long, stream of consciousness take that takes us from a quiet hut at dinnertime to a family’s cabin burning in the rain. From there, we get a titular visual, but it is so dreamlike and strange (the color changes in the cinematography are stunning) that I’ll pass on describing it to preserve its mystery for those who have not seen it, but we then get the poster for a prior Tarkovsky film that makes the connections clear: this is the dreamscape of someone very closely related to the director, possibly himself but apparently his son? My understanding may be limited by the butchering of the subtitles (why are so many scenes missing them?) but where the last three movies had concrete plots that veered into transcendental territory, this simply goes into all out dream mode, complete with a coworker being very kind to the mother, Maria, before launching into a withering attack on her personality that reduces her to crying. More than the other three, I found myself confused and frequently pausing to absorb the heaviness of the imagery, knowing that this was a work more dense than almost all art ever created. If anything, it helped me understand the incomprehensible stream of images of Carlos Reygadas’ Post Tenebras Lux a little easier rather than shedding light onto its own. But that might be what I found the most touching and strange about this journey. It remains totally see through but it refracts, and you can use it as a magnifying glass to peer at any aspect of your own life that you choose. By far the biggest revelation was when I went to log it on Letterboxd and realized the version Maria in the poster, which I had seen numerous times, had no legs. Truly the definition of a work of art helping you to see the world in a whole new way, no?