In 1974, Andrei Arsenievich Tarkovsky’s most confessional film, The Mirror, was released. Accepted with hostility by the Soviet authorities, he became the winner of the rental in Italy and France. An unusual view of filming and editing for domestic cinema, unpopular topics raised in the plot caused misunderstanding in the Union. Perhaps it was The Mirror that became the starting point for the director in the decision to emigrate.
What is the Mirror movie about?
Teenager Ignat watches a documentary on TV, where a doctor treats a guy with severe stuttering. The scene is the prologue of the picture. The following actions of the film take place in different time intervals – the memories of the main character Alexei. The viewer does not see the narrator himself (except for childhood and adolescence). On his deathbed, the hands of the dying Alexei are visible, and again – only a voice. His dreams and memories relate mainly to childhood, relationships with his mother, ex-wife Natalia and son Ignat (it was he who watched TV in the opening episode).
Childhood memories are connected with the pre-war period and the war that the protagonist experienced with his mother and sister in his grandfather’s father’s house. These visual pictures are full of slowness, tranquility. Documentary footage of the Second World War, the launch of stratospheric balloons in 1934, the civil confrontation in Spain in the late 30s, the conflict with China in 1969, as well as poems by the director’s father, Arseniy Tarkovsky, are woven into the timing of the picture.
The final scene shows a cozy, quiet dialogue between the parents about their newborn son. The picture shows only a few fleeting episodes with the father: the main characters are the mother and wife, who are similar to each other, like a mirror image.
The meaning of the film Mirror
The “Mirror” contains several important themes: intra-family relations; psychological characteristics of a person; political overtones (which prevented the film from being released in a large circulation).
1. Relationship with mother. Tarkovsky himself spoke of the picture as an autobiographical material. A huge layer of the plot is directed to the mother of the director Maria Ivanovna (Maria Nikolaevna in the film), to the analysis of their relationship. Through the protagonist there is an attempt to come to terms with children’s grievances, fears. The prologue with the stuttering boy (the title of the episode is “I Can Speak”) symbolically begins the master’s confession. Andrei Arsenievich admitted that he was in eternal debt to his mother, who devoted her life to children. The author depicts a strong woman with careless beauty: here she impassively cuts a rooster, here she sells family earrings so as not to die of hunger. And all this against the backdrop of the eternal and silent expectation of his father, who left his family long before the war. At the same time, military events (the documentary part of the film) are mirrored through the whole life of the narrator and his family.
2. Psychoanalysis. What is happening is seen through the eyes of the protagonist: as a reflection in the mirror, he sees himself in the world around him. Mother and wife have one face. This is how Aleksey perceives them, and therefore the memory “confuses” their images. Every event in history is an interpretation of our consciousness. And close people are reflected in the same way by what we live. In The Mirror, for the narrator, his own fate has become a projection of his son’s life (Ignat and Alexei are similar in their youth, like twins), and the relationship with their mother is transferred to Natalya, which loops the author’s thoughts and emotional experiences.
3. Political regime. Maria Nikolaevna runs headlong to the printing house where she works in order to correct the mistake she has made. A typo can cost the lives of several of the woman’s colleagues. Having found out that the trouble has passed (there is no mistake), one of the workers has a nervous breakdown. Portraits of the leader and those close to him are pasted all over the printing house: the fear of stumbling threatens with inevitable retribution, which everyone knows very well. “Mirror” is one of the first films that showed the true relationship with the authorities in the 30s.
The meaning of the final
The serenity of the episode with the young, loving parents of the main character alternates with shots of an already aged mother, hastily striding across the same field with two small children. The “field” of life, which began with romance, becomes daily hard work, exhausting life. Where a woman, not noticing the time, still bears the burden of responsibility for already adult (but for her they are babies) children.
These frames flash in the memory of Alexei before his death. The doctor explains the rapid deterioration of well-being “by a common thing: memory, conscience.” The viewer saw the beginning and end of life, and between them a mirror of misunderstandings, quarrels, insults, but at the same time maternal love and humanity.
Tarkovsky said that with the film he “dealt with himself” – he turned his soul inside out. Although not everyone liked the author’s revelation, but (quoting his words) creativity is an act. So, an action that makes the viewer think and carefully look into the “mirror” of his life.