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cast: Margarita Terekhova, Ignat Daniltsev, Anatoly Solonitsyn, and (the voice of) Innokenty Smoktunovsky

director: Andrei Tarkovsky

102 minutes (U) 1974
Artificial Eye DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Before the opening credits, we see a young boy cured of a stammer by hypnosis. His first coherent words are "I can speak!" It's as if Tarkovsky is telling us he has now found his own voice as a filmmaker, and now he can begin to speak. Mirror (aka: Zerkalo) was his fourth feature, and it marked a notable shift in his work. Ivan's Childhood, Andrei Rublev and Solaris were fundamentally genre films - respectively, war movie, historical epic and science fiction - filtered through Tarkovsky's developing style and preoccupations. Mirror took a more inward, personal approach: it's his most obviously autobiographical film.
   There's no plot in the conventional sense. An artist (not seen, but voiced by Innokenty Smoktunovsky) looks back on his childhood and his future, as seen in his own child. The film merges memories with dreams and nightmares, fantasy with documentary. Tarkovsky's father Arseny reads some of his own poems on the soundtrack. His mother plays herself as an old woman. The same actress, Margarita Terekhova, plays both the artist's mother and his estranged wife Natalya. Tarkovsky switches back and forth in time, mixing colour with black and white. Seemingly colour represents memory and direct experience: monochrome both dream and 'objective' reality, in which the artist does not take part. Some of this is genuine documentary footage. Black and white is used for a sequence where the artist's mother, working at a printer's press, saves a newspaper from disaster by correcting a misprint. (This is based on a true story, where a newspaper accidentally misprinted Stalin - Man of Steel, as Sralin - Man of Excrement.)
   Much of Mirror is dense and personal, and it's a film that benefits from repeat viewings. However, the film's great strength can be appreciated first time round: Tarkovsky's ability to conjure up images of considerable and genuine poetic force, that stay in the mind for a long time - like a dream, they move us and have an impact even if their full 'meaning' remains tantalisingly just out of reach.
   Artificial Eye's DVD is, like its releases of Tarkovsky's other four Russian-made features, licensed from the Russian Cinema Council (Ruscico). It forms part of Ruscico's project to release 120 of its country's classics onto disc. Mirror is presented in its original Academy ratio (4:3) - up until at least the late 1980s, non-scope Russian films used this ratio, decades after it had been largely abandoned in the west. The soundtrack is the original Russian, remixed into Dolby digital 5.1 and, unlike other discs; there are no dubbed options. There has been some controversy over Ruscico's remixed soundtracks, which resulted in Stalker being reissued with the original mono track added as an alternative to the 5.1 remix. That's not the case with this Mirror disc, so purists be warned. There is a choice between Russian, English and French for the menus, and there are subtitles in Russian, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, Swedish, German, Portuguese, Hebrew, Arabic and Chinese.
   Disc extras: introductions to the film by screenwriter Aleksandr Misharin and Girgory Yavlinksy, an interview with composer Eduard Artemyev, a short documentary Memory, featurettes on Anatoly Solinitsyn and Innokenty Smoktunovsky, a stills gallery and bio-filmographies. The filmographies include links to trailers for other Ruscico releases: Unfinished Piece For Mechanical Piano, Solaris, The Blue Bird, Siberiade and Nest Of The Gentry.
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