On reflection…August 18, 2007
Well over the last week I didn’t get to listen to much music, a combination of employment assessment centres and spending some quality time with my better half kept me busy. This morning however I had some quiet time to myself, but instead of putting something into the CD player I sat and watched Andrej Tarkovsky’s Mirror, a DVD I have owned for a couple of months now, but for some reason just haven’t had the inclination to sit and watch.
I’ve written here before about the difficulty I have with sitting and watching films in this way. I’ve spent many years avoiding the act of sitting in front of a TV for long periods of time, but the recent few attempts I’ve made to sit and watch a few films I’ve been recommended have been enjoyable.
Mirror is beautifully constructed. To me, after just the one viewing it seems to be a collage of childhood memories and emotions intricately wound together to paint an overall picture that allows an understanding of how Tarkovsky felt as a child (the film is in a large part autobiographical) rather than tell a story with any beginning or end. Characters aren’t fully defined for a long time and remain slightly distant, their secrets held back rather than explained, leaving you with their surface emotions and the occasional hint at something deeper. The film is put together wonderfully. Each short scene is beautifully filmed in itself, with recurring metaphorical motifs and faces appearing at different stages, with movements back and forth in time blurred by the reappearance of familiar moments. The film acts as a mirror on itself, the past reflecting the future, and vice versa, until the temporal structure of the film dissolves and we are left with just a sense of emotion, nostalgia, regret and lost vitality that as a viewer we can all understand. The screen showing the film becomes a mirror in itself. There’s no way I can come close to understanding this film after just one viewing, and it may be some time before I see it again, but it left me in a state of melancholic contemplation as it ended, projecting onto me some sort of blanket of overall feeling and mood.
Beside this sense of reflective atmosphere the film is technically and visually very beautiful indeed. The movement between one scene and the next is often stunning, ranging from slow panoramic swings of the camera to precise cuts between places and times, often with some visual elements remaining from scene to scene. Tarkovsky uses several repeated devices nicely, rain falling at a window appears often, and one dreamlike sequence where the ceiling of a house falls around the lead female character echoes the rainfall. Mirrors and reflected images obviously occur often, and a small bird, captured in the hand at one point in the film is later released, and in late sequences in the film birds flying free may or may not hark back to the same device. The photography is gorgeous, a wonderful sense of compositional framing is evident throughout and the timing matches the slow, dreamy pace of the film superbly.
I’m miles away from really appreciating Mirror. So far I can only take it at surface value, take from it its beauty and sense of introspection. Clearly there are many layers in there, metaphors I don’t understand, subtleties that are lost on me, partly becuase I need to watch the film more, and partly because I lack experience with cinema of this quality, but I know I enjoyed Mirror a lot and will return to it again.