Fact: Until now, we didn't have any specific thread for discussing this film.
... 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.
And, I've always appreciated Kartina Richardson's comment -
Filmsweep Reaction to The Mirror.
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.