The Mirror (1975)
I think Andrei Tarkovsky and Terrence Malick may have a lot in common; but as a viewer I don't have a problem distinguishing the two: I don't speak Russian. As much as I would love to be bilingual, the language is not something I'm event remotely familiar with and thus, the poetry fails me. Malick is able to evoke from his movies a sense of deep resonating emotion that rolls like waves, corresponding with music, image, and voice over narration. With Tarkovsky, I feel like he is doing his best to try to accomplish the same thing and in this regard, "The Mirror" anticipates "The Tree of Life". But there's the disconnect between the languages and the actual longing, sorrow, happiness, and hauntings that might be present fall on deaf ears.
I also think that Malick does a defter (is that ever a word?) job at crafting a story that reflects a state of childhood seen through the lens of adulthood, in snippets, vignettes, and visual metaphors. It's only when adopting this mind set approaching "The Mirror" does it begin to make sense. Tarkovsky is the kind of director that is revered for the sake of reverence. We can see this in "Solaris" and in "The Mirror" among many, many other movies. He is considered to be one of the greats.
"The Mirror" begins with a hypnosis scene that makes little to no sense with the rest of the movie, except that it transports you into a mindset of submission for, like many of the "great" movies, you just are along for the ride. As if looking into a mirror and reflecting (see what I did there) on his past life, a man seems drawn to the image of his wife and his lover (both played by Margarita Terekhova). Here the film draws on the surreal. The narrator and his younger counterpart as well as his own son are all played by the same person—well, the younger two are anyways. So what does this do to a film that already complicates its fairly simple idea of reflection: it makes it almost impossible to understand.
The haunting imagery is reminiscent of Lars von Trier and "Antichrist" is sure to have stolen some moments from "The Mirror". Indeed, if we were to line up the films that seem to borrow Tarkovsky's stunning images we would be left with a list that includes everything from "Cloud Atlas" to "The White Ribbon". There is no doubt that visually, Tarkovsky is able to create something truly unique, but it is in his actual storytelling that it suffers.
I won't spend too much time on the movie itself besides noting how the slow-motion black and white filming makes the movie feel suspended in a liquid of some kind. This effect is almost spellbinding, but it brings up back down when we have to figure out why the hell we actually care about anything.
This is where Malick has to come back into the picture because he is so similar. Tarkovsky spends a lot of time on the figure of maternity, Terekhova does a really good job in the movie, as Malick might have done. He does not ponder the duality of mankind, but the idea of a lens is present. Also, he is less obsessed with evoking an emotion as much as keeping you prisoner to his world.
This makes me think of "The Double Life of Veronique" because, while beautiful to look at, I don't actually care about anything.
If this is a movie about reflection it should also be a movie about imagination because many scenes that our narrator (who remains curiously unseen) remembers or reflects on, he could not have been privy to. That's just something of importance that I think should be noted.
So for visuals, yes the movie is good. For anything that resembles an actual structure (and don't really get me started on how Malick does accomplish this while Tarkovsky doesn't), the movie suffers and you'll be left staring at the black screen of a laptop wondering what happened.
Then you might see your reflection and the irony will hit you like a bag of bricks.
Posted by Micah Jones