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Mirror, directed by legendary Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky in 1975 is considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made. It’s a semi-autobiographical, loosely structured art house film that brilliantly evokes a freefloating, dreamlike experience, but can be all too frustrating for anyone that prefers their movies to have plot or sense or direction.
I am a story and character-driven person. I appreciate rich, nuanced characterization and a structured narrative and am particularly partial to high-concept storytelling – as such, watching and subsequently reviewing Mirror was quite the challenge, as the movie is essentially plotless.
It can be perhaps best described as a series of loosely connected vignettes, comprised of childhood memories and dreams that have newsreel footage spliced into them at certain points. This is a movie that consciously discourages a critical, in-depth analysis because at its core, it’s designed to evoke a purely emotional response. Much like you shouldn’t question or overthink a dream while you’re having it, Mirror works best when you completely disconnect from the what and why.
There’s no overarching point to be made, no hidden meaning to extract. Mirror is not abstract and ambiguous out of a need to be obfuscating, but rather because it taps into something that cannot be easily explained or neatly arranged into a cohesive structure. Memories and dreams are random, scattershot and nonsensical, but they can be emotionally charged in ways that often defy reason.
Mirror failed to elicit any kind of emotional response. I am hardwired to search for narrative meaning, story progression and character development. Their absence made watching Mirror feel like slamming my head against a brick wall repeatedly. As such, I can say with some degree of certainty that if you are looking for a meaningful story or interesting characters, Mirror is definitely not the movie for you. It’s bound to leave you bored, confused and more than a little frustrated.
It’s certainly a beautiful film, with gorgeous cinematography that consistently switches things up in fascinating ways. Shots and scenes flow from one another with the kind of nonsensical ease that could be best described as a stream of consciousness. It’s as fleetingly memorable as a dream, in the sense that you want to remember as much of it as you can, but it’s difficult to hang on to.
To me, everything that’s great about Mirror makes it feel fundamentally flawed and inaccessible, and even the striking visuals are not enough to make it an enjoyable and worthwhile viewing experience.
Mirror is scheduled for release on DVD and Blu-Ray on July 25, 2016.