Those who believe that Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life ushered in an entirely new type of film this summer should tackle Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Mirror (1975)—a far more difficult film that also functions as a kind of autobiography that concerns itself with a time and a place. There’s really nothing about the film that can be called a plot. In essence, The Mirror is a series of seemingly unconnected, yet strangely connected memories. As memories, they’re a mixture of the crystal clear and the vaguely outlined. These memories seem to fold in on themselves in a flood—albeit a rather slow flood, since this is Tarkovsky—to a point that order is meaningless. All these times have become one. Similarly, characters change and morph within the space of a scene. It is a film that is difficult to adequately describe—and one I believe is impossible to process in one sitting. I also suspect that it may be a film that will never be wholly comprehensible to a non-Russian—possibly even to a Russian who never experienced the time periods depicted in the film. Some may find it a wholly frustrating experience. In which case, the best approach is probably just to immerse one’s self in the incredible imagery that transmutes even the mundane into something that feels fresh and new.
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