REVIEW – Mirror (1975)

Seven years on and this brief piece about Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker remains — year in and year out — this blog’s most frequently visited blog. However, despite the existence of an audience for my thoughts on Tarkovsky’s films and Stalker being my all time favourite movie, I have never taken it upon myself to write about Tarkovsky’s films in any depth. This is now about to change as Curzon Artificial Eye have started re-releasing many of Tarkovsky’s films on Blu-ray, which gives me precisely the excuse I needed to get my arse in gear.

FilmJuice have my review of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mirror, which was released on Blu-ray this week.

First released in 1975, Mirror was an intensely personal undertaking that was squeezed in between the robustly metaphysical science fictional epics of Solaris and Stalker. However, while the film’s autobiographical subject matter may promise improved accessibility, Mirror is arguably the most demanding of all Tarkovsky’s films:

Like many of Tarkovsky’s films, Mirror is fiendishly difficult to parse. For those not familiar with his style, the only comparison that springs to mind is to imagine a version of Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind but without the science-fictional conceits and without the memories all revolving around one character’s love for another. Watching Mirror is very much like sitting in on the final memories that flash before the mind’s eye of a dying man. The memories may not fit into any particular order or cohere into relatable stories but you can see how these memories might make a life and how their beauty would cause them to get lodged in the mind of a dying man. Mirror is not an easy film to watch and the reactions it tries to get from its audience are a million miles from the hollow excitement and sentiment that clog the screens of our local cinemas. This is not a film for everyone but those who accept its challenge will be forever changed for just as our culture trains us to understand our culture, alien cultures encourage us to view our culture with all new eyes.



  1. I look forward to more of your writing on Tarkovsky, I’ve been enjoying the local arthouse’s revival in tandem with those rereleases. Seeing Tarkovsky on the big screen is really something, especially after years spent huddled close to a laptop screen with ropey subtitles.

    I began to parse a lot of Tarkovsky’s films through mysticism and icon-gazing after watching Andrei Rublev. If the image is an essential representation of its invisible or occluded prototype (a painting of Jesus his literal presence, or even taken to its extreme, Jesus the fleshly version of God) then I think these films appear as ‘flat’ icons of human experience. I think they invite the viewer into a very personal ritual that, as you say, rewards the ‘faithful’ with a genuine change in perspective, something few other directors can achieve even once, but Tarkovsky manages time and again.


  2. Yes! I think a lot of Tarkovsky’s films are about re-creating the kind of mystical experiences that medieval churches and cathedrals used to coax out of baffled peasants: Careful selection of images, long pauses designed to elicit particular emotional and intellectual responses, and (often overlooked) the willingness to be evocative without being either explicit or rigorous. He prowls around the outskirts of a particular cognitive state but the decision to jump in the hole is always yours and yours alone.


  3. About to watch this tonight. I finished Andrei Rublev for the second time recently and it remains to this day one of the most transporting and moving pieces of cinema I have seen. Would love to see your write up it.


  4. your comparison to eternal sunshine of the spotless mind was bang on – it’s similar to that film without a similar structure to guide you through it. but anyway, i was floored by the beauty of this film just like tarkovsky’s other work. it is said that tarkovsky’s films are more often felt than understood, and the mirror certainly evokes true feeling. i plan on revisiting it in the future soon as a lot of it flew over my head. that’s the thing with tarkovsky, and one of the reasons he is so special – each subsequent viewing is for me even more enriching and rewarding. you can’t say that about many films or directors.


  5. Right… So much of what you get from Tarkovsky is stuff you have put together yourself and so each successive viewing conjures up quite different readings, each of them drawing on different details


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