My appreciation for Andrei Tarkovsky has only grown since I first saw Solaris a few years ago. I am not alone; many revere the Soviet director as one of the greatest of all time. Even with all that said, there is an almost mythical status to Zerkalo, or The Mirror, that few other director’s masterworks can match; this, I knew going into it, was to be Tarkovsky at his most brilliant. To put it in simple words, it did not disappoint; this was spellbinding, a cinematic experience unlike any other, and an absolute masterpiece from start to finish. Mr. Tarkovsky, I hope you took a good long bow after this one.
The plot? I won’t even get into the plot, mostly because I don’t think I can. There is no real plot, or at least a conventional one; the film is instead a series of memories and dreams presented non-chronologically, jumping around between timeframes, making for quite possibly the most confusing narrative ever seen in cinema. The film switches between black-and-white footage and color pretty much on a whim, which adds to the confusion as well as the overall effect of the film; one of a constant, ever-present dream-like state, truly a portrait of a single mind in all its complexity. Suffice it to say, it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well as it does with a less experienced mind (and hand) behind the camera. The film is filled with tiny infinitesimal movements, either of the camera or the zooming of the lens, that instead of drawing focus to them, instead narrow our focus, shifting it within the frame to where it needs to be. The music is typical Tarkovsky; slow and melodious and deliberate, and perfectly matched with the visuals; nary a frame or note is out of place. And the cinematography; my god, the visuals in this are breathtaking. Damn near every single shot of this film is a tapestry; the composition, use of color or shades of light, and production value creates a host of truly sumptuous images. I’ve mentioned on a few films before how you could take any single frame of the film and have it mounted on the wall as a portrait or photograph, and Zerkalo is unquestionably one of those films.
There is absolutely no denying that I have just seen a masterpiece; it is just what kind of masterpiece it is that I will have to spend some time on, and even perhaps another viewing or two, which I wouldn’t begrudge in the slightest. While it is still the shortest Tarkovsky film on the list, it is also the most obtuse, the most challenging and difficult to ascertain, and while other films that can be called difficult are so because they don’t know how to structure their stories, there is nothing but structure here; a method to the madness of Zerkalo cannot be denied, even if one cannot be sure of what that method is upon a first or second or even third viewing. This is absolutely one I will add to my collection at some point in the future, and watch whenever I need a good burst of inspiration. Absolutely sublime; please, do not forgo seeing this film whenever you get the chance.
Arbitrary Rating: 10/10
Well, here it is; the big 1,000. I wanted it to be special in some way, and thanks to Tarkovsky, it easily turned out to be. I’ll probably stop counting/posting on the milestones, as the ones after this are mostly inconsequential, with the additions to the list each year. So, happy 1,000 reviews everyone, and here’s to (at this point) approximately 150 more.