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The Mirror (1975)

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I'm reading complaints about both DVD editions of this film. Does anybody have a strong preference for the Kino or the R.U.S.C.I.C.O. version?

Or is there a better version out there I should seek out?

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I still haven't seen this, but I'd assumed that with their -- what, 500? 600? -- releases, Criterion would've done something about this by now.

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Criterion hasn't gotten to Mirror yet. The only Tarkovsky they've done are Solaris, Ivan's Childhood, and Andrei Rublev. I'm pretty sure Netflix sent me the Kino version when I got it from them. The quality was decent, from what I remember, but I don't think it included many extras.

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As always, DVD Beaver has the lowdown on this. I have the Kino. Looking forward to hearing about the Vancouver screening from Ron Reed.

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It is looking like the RusCiCo version is the best, which is copied by the MK2 and Artificial Eye releases - though the latter two have a sepia tint to all the black and white sequences. I agree that the Kino is way too saturated for Tarkovsky's palette.

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So I'm assuming there's still no good DVD of this yet? It's in my Amazon cart, but I'm being told I have to rely on a horrible English translation in the subtitles for one or a bad picture for the other.

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:blink:

I'd forgotten we actually have a thread dedicated to The Mirror. The A&F Top 100 directs discussion of the film to this thread, so when I looked it up the other day I gathered that's all there was.

I might as well repost my Filmsweep Reaction in the proper thread.

So I'm assuming there's still no good DVD of this yet? It's in my Amazon cart, but I'm being told I have to rely on a horrible English translation in the subtitles for one or a bad picture for the other.

Yeah, the subtitles are really bad. But not bad enough that you won't understand the basic concept of any conversation. And subtitles won't take away the effect of this film on a viewer anyway.

Netflix = KINO = bad subtitles

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:blink:

I'd forgotten we actually have a thread dedicated to The Mirror. The A&F Top 100 directs discussion of the film to this thread, so when I looked it up the other day I gathered that's all there was.

I might as well repost my Filmsweep Reaction in the proper thread.

So I'm assuming there's still no good DVD of this yet? It's in my Amazon cart, but I'm being told I have to rely on a horrible English translation in the subtitles for one or a bad picture for the other.

Yeah, the subtitles are really bad. But not bad enough that you won't understand the basic concept of any conversation. And subtitles won't take away the effect of this film on a viewer anyway.

Netflix = KINO = bad subtitles

I believe we watched the RusCiCo DVD of the film in my class, and it seemed pretty good.

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ok, so how do we start a lobby for a DVD of this film without stupid problems? This shouldn't be too much to ask.

Amazon commentators are saying:

J. Steffan -

... I agree that Kino's subtitles are frustratingly incomplete in several dialogue scenes. It's a pity, because there are many wonderful small exchanges between the characters that really add texture to the script. The RUSCICO subtitles are more complete but they terribly botch the poetry, which is central to the film's effect. That sin is not easily forgiven, and for that reason alone you should get the Kino version ...

Charles G. Fry -

I found this KINO DVD to be very disappointing. The fullscreen format is a huge problem (I have to assume, never having seen Mirror in widescreen), as one the great joys with Tarkovsky is his mastery of widescreen. And the translation is very bothersome; I know no Russian, but it is obvious that a significant portion of the dialog is never translated. We have to assume the skipped portions are unimportant to the story, but what a distraction. This DVD takes what should be a 5 star experience for Tarkovsky fans, and turns it into 3 stars.

Vlad -

I have bought the DVD published by KINO ON VIDEO, and oh my, Andrei Tarkovsky must be rolling in his grave knowing what they did to his masterpiece. For those of you who don't speak Russian, I feel very very very bad for you, because of the terrible translation of the movie. Aside from the poems in the movie, that were previously translated by the professionals, the translation sounds as though it was done by fifth-graders. And not just because it is done in the high-school level English. HALF of the speech is not translated at all--a lot of important chatter is completely missing in the subtitles. Many things are oversimplified and revealed, instead of letting the viewer dig them out him/herself. Those of you who don't understand Russian are doomed to be tortured by such translation and never to reveal the true beauty and meaning of the original script. Having read all of the subtitles, I understood a lot of things in a wrong way, different from the way they were intended in the first place, and had zero satisfaction from the movie. Thank [deity] I'm Russian.

The ugly yellow subtitles can NOT be removed--they will stay on the screen forever while I watch the movie and irritate and upset me with the abovementioned crimes against Art ...

For Tarkovsky movies, I would NORMALLY recommend R.U.S.C.I.C.O. editions, but not in the case of Mirror. Yes, as any R.U.S.C.I.C.O. movie, it has very good subtitles, in a dozen languages. But, the problems with the picture and sound are even worse in their edition, albeit better picture quality as opposed to the grainy KINO quality. R.U.S.C.I.C.O. tried extremely hard to make the movie more enjoyable, and, apparently, overdid it. The lighting does not match with the original movie, as they try to make every object more distinctly seen and illuminated. They increase sharpness in places where it shouldn't take place, such as "hand-on-fire" image, thus depriving the illusion that the hand is on fire. Remastered sound often fails too, as many sounds are louder than others and overlap each other out of order. But I digress. We have no other choice but to choose between either KINO or R.U.S.C.I.C.O. edition of Mirror.

M. Kozlov -

Here's the bad: The Ruscico transfer, which is way better than the Kino release, is flawed on the NTSC (US/ Canada) versions of the film. It had been cheaply and directly ported fom a PAL (European) master of the film. Pal is 25 frames per second and NTSC is 30 frames per second. To make up for the lost 5 frames per second, a compilation od two frames blurred together was used. Hence, when the picture is moving in a panning shot, the objects on screen go out of focus...and that's unacceptable in a film like Mirror ...

Edited by Persiflage

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I might as well repost my Filmsweep Reaction in the proper thread.

So I just watched this (starting with the KINO version from Netflix), and was disappointed to discover that A&F discussion of his film is so far slim-to-nil. I have no idea how to begin processing my thoughts about this film in an orderly fashion. I think it was Jeffrey who originally posted a link in another thread to the thoughts of Kartina Richardson on this -

Films of the Holy Cinema might be considered the “difficult movies”, and this judgment is correct. These films are in fact difficult, however this is not because the ideas are hard to grasp. Movies aren’t made for movie scientists. Anyone can understand any film if they are open to it. I firmly believe this. There is no correct way to understand a movie, even if the director believes there is. In reality a movie is difficult because of our resistance to it. We resist these films because they peel. Peel when very often we’d prefer to keep our layers intact. I battle with myself about this everyday. Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Mirror is a film I’ve seen several times, and I can state without hesitation that it is the most profoundly meaningful film I’ve experienced thus far. Having said that, it’s the absolute last movie I ever want to watch. I will put on anything over The Mirror, usually a comedy I’ve worn threadbare. It’s a miracle that I’ve seen the film at all. Now this is complete absurdity. The Mirror is cathartic and each viewing results in a deeper, quieter, connection with myself that lasts for days. I am exhilarated, energized, and full of ideas. It makes my life better. And yet, in full knowledge of the intense pleasure and peacefulness the film gives me, more often that not I refuse to watch it. The peeling of layers disrupts routine living and thinking. And though this disruption is vital, it takes enormous mental and emotional strength to allow it.

Persona wrote -

I really appreciate Tarkovsky's ability to slow down our pulse, giving us space to think and breathe, helping us seep gently into the layers of one of his films. In the digital age we rarely have a chance to consider reality, and the rapid edit goes hand in hand with a lot of CGI. I've sat and counted 1.2 seconds between edits in many frustrating movie houses. Our culture despises patience but it is patience that always pays off. Tarkovsky created films that teach from their image as well as their philosophy.

This film was hard to sit through and the images in this film were almost hypnotic. As I understood it, these were the unorganized memories of a dying man. And yet, they do seem to be organized ... or headed in a particular direction. There are some points that it feels like the film/memories are headed towards. But it takes time and thought to glean these from the experience of watching the film, and I've only just started upon this task, having seen the film only once.

The Mirror is visual poetry, with autobiographical details that won't ever be fully understood by anyone in the audience. This is why people who love the film say they've seen it ten, perhaps fifteen times, and that they get something new out of it every time they sit and watch. This is Tarkovsky on Tarkovsky, full stream of consciousness, and he gets away with it because of the film's Eye ... So The Mirror, to me, is an incredible achievement, an expansive and majestic work of art, and yet I cannot derive much meaning from it in my first few days with it.

Exactly. Which also makes me very interested in the thoughts of anyone who has actually seen the film more than once and actually had a few years or so to think about it.

Edited by Persiflage

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Persiflage wrote:

: I think it was Jeffrey who originally posted a link in another thread to the thoughts of Kartina Richardson on this . . .

We actually don't have any links to this essay at A&F. But the paragraph you quote here is identical to the paragraph that I posted to my Facebook wall back on March 20. Perhaps you saw it there?

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We actually don't have any links to this essay at A&F. But the paragraph you quote here is identical to the paragraph that I posted to my Facebook wall back on March 20. Perhaps you saw it there?

Yeah, it could have been you - if so, thanks. And if anyone here hasn't read her essay yet, read it.

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My Tarkovsky year continued last Friday with this one, and on VHS unfortunately. Still, I loved it. There were plenty of head-scratching moments, but the images were so beautiful and striking (especially that burning barn at the beginning) that I wasn't bothered by it. I hope to revisit this one very soon.

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My Tarkovsky year continued last Friday with this one, and on VHS unfortunately. Still, I loved it. There were plenty of head-scratching moments, but the images were so beautiful and striking (especially that burning barn at the beginning) that I wasn't bothered by it. I hope to revisit this one very soon.

"But... but... there's no plot!!" - critics of The Tree of Life

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"Great art rearranges people forever." -- Glenn Close, last month, at an Oscars press conference. Short video clip, here.

I've been thinking about what Glenn Close said. Tarkovsky's films have certainly affected me, in a deep and permanent way. But Close's use of the word rearranges caused me to reflect: Which one of Tarkovsky's films has rearranged me the most? This is not the same question as: Which one of Tarkovsky's films do I like best, or do I think is best? I find it impossible to consistently answer the latter question – it depends on my general frame of mind at the time – yet it is always one of three: Andrei Rublev, Zerkalo (Mirror), or Stalker. But which film has rearranged me the most? That's easy. Zerkalo.

To some extent, I discovered (and rediscover) in the other two films precious things that have always naturally attracted me; but in Zerkalo, I found (and continue to find) things I hadn't been predisposed to look for, but things that I have begun – in large part because of this film – to realize are just as precious. What are these precious things? It's hard to put them into words, but I'll try: first and foremost, the maternal-child bond that is both practically and mystically necessary; the bond between us and the land, especially the forest; the bond between us and our childhood home; the bond between us and our country (and its history), even when our country happens to be so ridiculously authoritarian that it could imprison us for a proofreading mistake.

Zerkalo is not as overtly "spiritual" (in monotheistic terms) as the other two Tarkovsky films I mentioned, and this may explain why it doesn't rank higher in this site's Top 100 list. It has a subtler, more "pagan" aspect to its spirituality, to my mind. Not that the other two films don't also have similar elements: think of the pagan scene in Andrei Rublev; think of the "animist" references – "every house [in the Middle Ages] had its house spirit," the objects that move telekinetically or just on their own – in Stalker. On my blog, I once commented on the importance of the pagan scene in Andrei Rublev for the title character's Christian understanding of love. I have by no means changed my mind about that, but I did make a summary statement back then to the effect that such a pagan ritual, in Russia of the era depicted in the film, would have been an anachronism, i.e. that it could not have occurred.

I now know that the situation was, and is, more complicated than that. I now know that pre-Christian, animist religious beliefs have never entirely gone away in Russia (consider the present-day Mari Traditional Religion) and likely will not. Not only that. In spite of continuing disapproval from the Orthodox (Christian) Church, many of those who still hold to their animist beliefs also consider themselves to be Christians. I now know that this ability to hold "dual beliefs" is just one of many things that seem peculiar about Russia – peculiar, I mean, to our Westernized, rationalized way of thinking which has, of course, long since overrun Russia too without, however, entirely extirpating Russia's peculiar, residual nature.

One sees a "difference" about Russia in other areas too. Think of Russian scientists, and how they think a little differently (and more holistically, I would say) than Western scientists, even today. I have personally observed this difference in my admittedly very limited dealings with them. I see their difference as a plus, but I think mine is the minority viewpoint in the West. Still, things may be changing. I recall reading an article recently which stated that Russian mathematicians are now in great demand within the academic world. Due to Soviet isolationism, for so many decades, mathematics there developed in separate ways that are only now beginning to be appreciated in the West.

I'm sorry for straying off topic! In short, Tarkovsky's films have rearranged me forever, and none more so than Zerkalo. Perhaps more than any other of his films, I think Zerkalo rewards repeat viewings (spaced out in time, of course). The film is like a well that one can always draw from – one that never runs dry.

P.S. No one should let the limitations (subtitles and whatnot) of some of the extant versions of the film deter them from seeing it for the first time. Trust me: the greatness of Zerkalo shines through the limitations.

Edited by tenpenny

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Though I also learned from Zerkalo that I don't want to seek rearrangment as a spiritual virtue. There are parts of my thinking that I am compelled are good, just, and connected to things that render them coherent. These I want sharpened, even refined, perhaps - but not rearranged.

I have always watched the film as Tarkovsky's effort to "range" himself in the Percyian sense in his own historical memory, rather than persisting in the isolating "de-rangement" of socialist ideology.

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FWIW, a "reading" of Zerkalo (The Mirror) that Tarkovsky seemed quite satisfied with was the one by a Russian cleaning woman (the bold highlighting is mine), as he related once in an interview:

Q: The Mirror reminds the French of the universe of Proust, the universe of memory.

T: For Proust, time is more than time. For a Russian, all of that isn't a problem. We Russians have to protect ourselves. For Proust, the issue was rather to propagate himself. There is a very strong tradition in Russian literature centered precisely on childhood and adolescent remembrances, on this attempt to settle accounts with one's past, a kind of repentance.

Q: And was The Mirror that? A revival of this literary genre?

T: Yes. In fact, this film provoked a lot of discussion among Russian spectators. One day, during a public debate organized after a screening, the discussion dragged on and on. After midnight, a cleaning woman arrived to clean the screening room, wanting to throw us out. She had seen the film earlier on and she didn't understand why we were arguing for such a long time about The Mirror. She told us, "Everything is quite simple, someone fell ill and was afraid of dying. He remembered, all of a sudden, all the pain he'd inflicted on others, and he wanted to atone for it, to ask to be pardoned." This simple woman had understood it all, she had grasped the repentance in the film. Russians constantly live with the present time upon them. Literature is made up only of that, and the simple people understand it very well. The Mirror is, in that sense, a bit the history of Russians, the history of their repentance. While the critics, present in the screening room, had understood absolutely nothing about the film – and the further things go, the less they understand – this woman who hadn't finished grade school, was telling us the truth in her way, this truth inherent in the Russian people's repertoire.

Edited by tenpenny

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(A&F links to the general Tarkovsky thread, Ivan's Childhood (1962), Andrei Rublev (1966), Solaris (1972), Stalker (1979), Nostalghia (1983), Voyage in Time (1983), The Sacrifice (1986), and the documentary Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky (2008).)

Here's collecting other comments on The Mirror into this thread:
 

... I am suprised no one has mentioned The Mirror here. We talked about that film extensively on previous versions of this board. If you read Sculpting in Time one gets the sense that The Mirror really is at the center of his work, his aesthetic and his biography become indistinguishable in the film. When people ask me about where to start with Tarkovsky, I always tell them to start with The Mirror. Just watch it. Don't bother with it in any other terms than a series of images, certainly be haunted by the pervading psychology of its ineffable narrative, but just let it roll over you.

It really is a tough film, but it really is what Tarkovsky is all about. Then move to Stalker, just because it is so watchable and so intellectually intoxicating. Stalker is a great way to get people hooked into Tarkovsky. Then the rest take in at your leisure as long as you end up back at The Mirror. If you don't end up back at the feet of the mirror in total awe and with a passion for trying to verbalize why it is such a powerful thing then you truly missed something important in your screening of his other films ... if there is any snobbery to be maintained about Tarkovsky, let it be that The Mirror is the place to start and finish.

saw The Mirror for the first time this weekend. Every time I thought I might have figured out what he was on about, a corner turned and I got lost again. And it was amazing. I felt like a non-person blob in my seat afterwards -- total meltdown, in a good way. I gotta watch this ten more times (though not in a row). Like Stalker, which I saw last weekend, it's slowly sinking in.

Darryl, if anything Mirror will be even more difficult! It has a very complex structure that requires several viewings to begin to piece together.

The Mirror was a difficult film, but I expected that going in. I'm happy to have watched; I just sat back and tried to take it all in without getting too worried that I was getting lost or whatever. I probably shouldn't admit this, but I quickly found that this one was *not* suitable for late-night viewing, as I began to drift off after about 25 minutes (blame my sleepiness, not the film). I was in and out, but I woke up once to immediately recognize the into at Darren's blog. Such a beautiful moment. Actually, I'd say that that section of the film was really my favorite from the dream sequence where the mother washes her hair to the scenes at the printer's. I backtracked the next day so I could see what I'd missed, and I finished it up then. Parts of the film were amazingly nerve-wracking (the grenade, when the mother kills the bird). Overall, the film was incredibly beautiful. I'm curious to know exactly how autobiographical this film is.

Diane, I'll give you the same advice I give everyone when they first see Mirror: if you're interested in understanding the film's "plot," try to get your hands on Vida Johnson and Graham Petrie's book, The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue (1994), which includes a really nice, chapter-length formal analysis. They include quite a bit of biographical material, along with Russian and European history, which contextualize the found footage that Tarkovsky uses. They argue, for example, that the footage from the Spanish Civil War and the scene with the Spanish family (the red-headed girl whose father slaps her) are intended to evoke the feelings of nostalgia and of longing for one's home(land) that characterize so much of Tarkovsky's last four films. I read the book after I had seen Mirror three or four times -- after I had already become an enthusiastic fan of its tone and images -- but their reading helped fill in a lot of the gaps.

I bought a Russian DVD of Mirror mostly because of its improved transfer and audio, but another nice side effect is that I can turn off all sub-titling. The words in the film are almost completely irrelevant to me at this point. I now put the film on whenever I'm stressed or anxious, and, for whatever reasons, the tone and beauty of the film's images and pacing and even the sound of the characters' voices just overwhelm me. The cut from the young girl's stare to the Soviet ballooners is my favorite of all time, and the music cue makes it transcendent. I cry almost every time I see it.

I saw the first half hour of The Mirror today, and I can tell already that it will be my fave of the five Tarkovskys I've seen. (Solaris, Andrei Rublev, Stalker, The Sacrifice.) So, no, I didn't begin with it like Leary mentions is a great way to begin, but I am already blown away by it. If I can get my sleep schedule in order I'm hoping to see the whole thing tonight.

Thought I'd post this while it's on my mind. I just think it is funny.

The cinematography in The Mirror, even from only seeing the first thirty minutes, is something I just don't get. It is awesome, I can say that much. But how this stuff is accomplished with such precise measure as these images and scenes just begin to bleed together and wash over me, wow, I can't even fathom how this was all pulled together.

None of that changes the fact that you can see the shadow of a boom mic for about a minute in the opening scene with the hypnotist. And that doesn't even bother me, I just know it is a major cinematographic faux pas, and I wonder if it bugged Tarkovsky later on.

The scene with the wind, trees, then moving into the house, is one of my favourite scenes in film. It's hauntingly meaningful and beautiful.

Filmsweep Reaction to The Mirror.

And, I've always appreciated Kartina Richardson's comment -

Films of the Holy Cinema might be considered the “difficult movies”, and this judgment is correct. These films are in fact difficult, however this is not because the ideas are hard to grasp. Movies aren’t made for movie scientists. Anyone can understand any film if they are open to it. I firmly believe this. There is no correct way to understand a movie, even if the director believes there is. In reality a movie is difficult because of our resistance to it. We resist these films because they peel. Peel when very often we’d prefer to keep our layers intact. I battle with myself about this everyday. Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Mirror is a film I’ve seen several times, and I can state without hesitation that it is the most profoundly meaningful film I’ve experienced thus far. Having said that, it’s the absolute last movie I ever want to watch. I will put on anything over The Mirror, usually a comedy I’ve worn threadbare. It’s a miracle that I’ve seen the film at all. Now this is complete absurdity. The Mirror is cathartic and each viewing results in a deeper, quieter, connection with myself that lasts for days. I am exhilarated, energized, and full of ideas. It makes my life better. And yet, in full knowledge of the intense pleasure and peacefulness the film gives me, more often that not I refuse to watch it. The peeling of layers disrupts routine living and thinking. And though this disruption is vital, it takes enormous mental and emotional strength to allow it.


There are times I’ve had to take a sedative in order to watch Holy Cinema, my defenses railed so strongly against it. But of course after each viewing the feeling was the same; that of surfacing. The relief of spotting the cave’s exit or a loose nail in the coffin.

 

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This film when I saw it finally for the first time, almost immediately moved onto my top films list.

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A good friend of mine turned me on to Tarkovsky a couple of years ago, and I managed to see The Mirror even before he had. I told him that I had watched it twice, and that between the two viewings it had gone from being "impenetrable" to "extremely difficult". He withheld comment until he could see it. A few months later he saw it, and got back to me saying he too thought it was impenetrable, had no narrative, etc. which really shocked me. I mean, this same guy had helped me demystify another difficult Russian film, Ilya Khrjanovsky's 4 by putting it into a context based on Russia's current social conditions, something I wasn't fully attuned to. I was amazed that he had so much trouble with The Mirror.

One of the most interesting things he told me though, was that the English translation wasn't always accurate, and that some sentences hadn't been translated at all. (I believe he saw the Kino Video edition of the film.) This was important to me, because I began to feel that perhaps not all of what Tarkovsky intended to say was contained in this version of the movie. Not that I want to make things more complicated than they need to be, but this is very significant when you're dealing with a complex, multifaceted work of art. You start to wonder if there's important ideas, clues, links, bits of narrative that aren't there which may have given you an even deeper understanding of the film's meaning.

Case in point, I recently watched a DVD of Bela Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies, which I liked a great deal. Unfortunately, the video presentation (by Facets) was so poorly done that I felt as though I hadn't really seen the film yet, and that I'd need a 35mm screening for the full experience. I don't think that's ever happened before (and I've seen some really lousy quality film transfers over the years) and it made me wonder: exactly where can one draw the line with regards to maintaining artsitic integrity? Are we truly seeing or hearing art the way the artists intended us to every time? I think we got lucky with Nabokov, who chose to write Lolita in both Russian and English.

Anyway, I may have wandered off the original topic a little, but being able to truly interpret a movie as complex as The Mirror requires that the integrity of the film is fully upheld. Otherwise, we don't know what we're missing.

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Yeah, I've heard that complaint about Mirror (and Werckmeister Harmonies) before; it's one reason they're both at the top of my "I wish Criterion would do this movie" list.

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Yes, I've seen both the Kino video and the RusCiCo release, and the RusCiCo definitely has more complete subtitles than the Kino version. Both releases have significant failings and I'd love to see this restored properly and given the full treatment.

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Anyway, I may have wandered off the original topic a little, but being able to truly interpret a movie as complex as The Mirror requires that the integrity of the film is fully upheld. Otherwise, we don't know what we're missing.

Thanks for your contribution here. I agree that can be frustrating. I have watched both releases Anders mentions and have often wondered what I am missing. But that is part of the alien charm of this film, in that it reminds me that the seductive idea that I can fully know an artist through their work is a myth. In his twilight, Godard has been intentionally playing with subtitles and languages in a similar fashion that Kino often accidentally "plays" with subtitles - but Godard's work has the same mythologizing effect.

And with the accidental slippage in the Kino subtitles, I find my kinship with Tarkovsky growing immensely. Even if I work as hard as I can to "get it" ("it" being whatever is happening in the film), there is always going to be a gap between my understanding of the film and the film itself. What bridges this gap? Some kind of trust in Tarkovsky first as an artist, but second as a wonderful, expressive, burdened, groping human being.

I am not sure if I want to see a perfectly executed version of the film. I dig this kinship.

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