An unseen narrator is flashing-back to his childhood in 1935. Since Tarkovsky made his first feature in the early sixties and this one is called Mirror, I’m going to assume it’s partly autobiographical. It’s also his Tree of Life – deeply-felt fragments with no easily-readable storyline. I might have missed some and misinterpreted the rest, but here are the episodes as I saw them:
1. A stutterer is cured under hypnosis. Sepia-toned film, shadows of camera crew visible, and neither character appearing in the rest of the story, because this episode is watched by the young protagonist on television.
2. color, a lost doctor talks to a woman at her house while two shaved-headed boys watch drowsily from a hammock. He leaves, turns back as a great gust of wind blows through the grass. I could watch this segment all day.
3. color, the barn burns down. Long takes bring The Sacrifice to mind.
4. b/w, woman wet hair vamping like The Ring monster, the house crumbles around her like a Low video, older woman appears in mirror reflection.
5. color, Alexei talks to his mom over phone, an Andrei Rublev poster on his wall. “Remember the hay-loft that burned down at the farm?”
6. b/w, woman proofreader thinks she’s made an error, runs through a printing press to check and it turns out okay but then everyone insults her. I think she is called Marousia, or Masha.
7. color, unseen man talking to ex-wife who reminds of his mother (same actress). “When I recall my childhood and my mother, somehow she always has your face.” Their son is Ignat. Wife might be Natalya. b/w news footage interlude.
8. color, Ignat has deja vu, then sees people who might not exist when left alone, talks to dad on phone.
9. color, a boy, maybe Ignat or his dad when young, in army training, notices girls, throws a fake grenade. War footage in b/w.
10. color, bird lands on freckly boy’s head
11. color, the mother/wife works in a ruined room.
12. b/w, Ignat’s unseen father wants Ignat to live with him, but ex-wife and Ignat disagree, dad says Ignat is stupid and recommends the army. Flashbacks and dreams: a bird flies through a windowpane.
13. color, mom comes to visit relative of the doctor – same one from first scene? Tells doc’s wife “a ladies little secret” while boy is alone looking in mirror. Red-haired girl might be Alyosha. They both feel sick. A chicken is killed.
14. b/w, a woman levitates
15. color, shaved-head kid talking to mom at farm, but mom is the old woman from reflections in #4.
16. color, doctor looking at sick guy, we see his hand holding a little bird
17. color, young woman lays on some guy in field, while two kids walk with older woman.
RW Knight for Reverse Shot:
Each event-that is, each cut, each encounter, each memory flashed back or forward-in the film’s networked composite is skewed by the film’s narrator. This narrator is the camera, and the film. His face is never seen. We are denied an identifying reverse shot. We are simply presented with his point of view: the identification is our instantaneous assimilation. His disembodied voice, weathered and granular, presides over the whole body of the work. His body is the work: the film and the guiding frame of the film. Occasionally when reading poetry the voice-over registers differently than when heard talking to other characters from outside the frame, but it still sounds like the same man. In fact, there are two voices: the poet-narrator is voiced by Arseni Tarkovsky, the director’s father, while the strictly first-person-narrator/character is voiced by Innokenti Smoktunovsky, the “first international Russian film star” (according to imdb.com), one of many point of view refractions. As identities merge in the film (father becomes son while mother becomes (ex-) wife and the son becomes his father in youth) they overlap in reality as well: the real father becomes the film star, and vice versa, incorporating their identities in the film, and its maker.
The Mirror forgoes a conventional narrative structure, instead weaving together loosely autobiographical reminiscences, dreams and newsreel footage to suggest how the past is reflected in the present, both on a personal and on a larger historical level. … As a further personal touch, his real-life mother Maria appears as the mother in old age, his wife Larissa appears as the doctor’s wife to whom the mother sells an earring, and his stepdaughter appears as the red-headed girl with whom the narrator falls in love as a young boy.
Some good wind, and fire. Slow motion. Objects move by themselves, sometimes mysteriously just before an edit. This is the closest Tarkovsky came to making The Shining.
Begun in 1968 then interrupted to make Solaris. Appears in the Sight & Sound directors poll top-ten (and critics poll top-twenty). Probably not my favorite Tarkovsky movie, but neither would I mind watching it again right this minute.