Recollection is a horrible thing; Mirror is enough to convince me of that. Such is the effect of loosely autobiographical works. When delving into that ever-so tortured mind of director Andrei Tarkovsky, abstract concepts and themes are very much the bread and butter of his display. He whips through several moments of life, all relaying the thoughts and topics he now feels about his childhood, upbringing and experiences. It is not often a creative can offer their reminiscent horrors and worried futures in such a creative and exciting way, most of the time the niggling doubts and worried tensions are presented as themes with resolutions, but Mirror offers no salvation.
That is the beauty of this loosely connected series of scenes. Ambitious films such as this give a versatile range to both cast and crew, who are then able to transfer the emotions of its creatives to the front and centre. Beyond that, Mirror is not much more than a musing on the various highs and lows in the life of its director. If that is not your cup of tea, then it will fall extremely short. His unorthodox way of writing is evident here more than anywhere else in his filmography. Diving back and forth through the narrative, there is not one strand that feels entirely at ease with itself, but that does appear to be the point.
Although there is much to dissect and discuss, Mirror is best experienced with an unflinching acceptance of heavy themes zipping past the eyes and ears of the audience. With so much on the line, it is nigh on impossible to understand everything Tarkovsky wishes to say. There are moments where he is not so sure himself. He flutters with those achingly horrifying themes of birth and death and does so with exuberance and style. It is this style that shoots the film full of fear, one that relays a simple message to an audience, one that seemingly proclaims that these fears should apply to us as well as the director. His ailments are ours, but also his own. He revels in the terror he presents audiences through the moments of silence and reflective tranquillity because Tarkovsky can exhibit those quiet moments of penance and reflection with such beauty.
It is erratic, illogical, and simply wonderful. Mirror takes the tact Tarkovsky has for free-flowing narratives, stretched across scenes he had been writing for just over a decade. He is piecing his own puzzle together, and the frustration and passion on display are both compelling and devastating to watch. Between this and The Sacrifice, Tarkovsky uses fire to burn down barns, houses and his dreams. Poetry from Arseny Tarkovsky echoes through the tortured mind of the son, and Mirror does indeed mirror the feelings and emotions of a creative struggling to get his vision put to film. Mirror was decades in the making, and it seemed Tarkovsky placed himself in the foreground of this one, casting his family and confessing his conscious trepidations to an active audience who will pick apart his life, times and style.