, Research Paper
The Mirror of Time and Memory.
Live in the house-and the house will stand.
I will call up any century,
Go into it and build myself a house?
With shoulder blades like timber props
I help up every day that made the past,
With a surveyor?s chain I measure time
And traveled through as if across the Urals.
I only need my immortality
For my blood to go on flowing from age to age.
I would readily pay with my life
For a safe place with constant warmth
Were it not that life?s flying needle leads me on Through the world like a thread.
The films of Andrey Arsen?evitch Tarkovsky fall into the separate genre of cinematic creations: they are more than drama or psychological thriller, more than philosophical cinema. Although Tarkovsky?s work has been deeply influenced with such prominent film directors as Kurosawa, Bunuel or Antonioni, the poetry of his father, Arseniy Tarkovsky, Boris Pasternak and many other Russian poets and writers, his films manage to form something completely unique to the mind of their director, convey a diaphanous psychological message. His cinematography is a celebration, a theatre of ?imprinted time,? trapped with the skillful techniques of the plot-creating and camera usage of the director. As if in the ?Zone? of his Staler the art of Andrey Tarkovsky freezes the moment, the gasp of time, enclosed into almost sculpture-like solid creation that opens up to the viewer its nostalgic breeze. The time exists, it crystallizes in form of faerie, elfish arabesque figures and characters and yet it evaporates filling the space with a sense of solitude and sorrow for the past.
Tarkovsky?s film Zerkalo or otherwise known as Mirror is a story of the human life; it is not quite a celebration of it; but rather a depiction of the web of the human senses. It is an autobiographic tribute to his abandoned by her husband during the war years mother, filled with the feelings of grief and amusement with her zealous self-sacrifice for the sake of her children. The narrator, or perhaps Tarkovsky himself, is trying to appease his guilty with indifference and scorn conscience with the memories of his childhood and attempts to relive or even incarnate the experiences of his past. The problems of the past are reflected and repeated in the present. Remembering Proust, Tarkovsky describes the effect of finishing Mirror:? Childhood memories which for years had given me no peace suddenly vanished, as if they had melted away, and at last I stopped dreaming about the house where I had lived so many years before .? As all of Tarkovsky?s films, Zerkalo is hard to be tied to any particular culture, it is universal, global in its meaning and message it conveys and yet fully comprehendible only by someone who experienced the described reality of pre-war Soviet times of Stalin?s repressions and the war itself.
The film opens with a prologue that shows life footage of a boy being treated from stuttering. In the end of the prologue, the treated patient says, ?I can speak now?; the entire essence of Zerkalo as ?the remembrances of a man who recalls the most important moments in his life, a man dying and acquiring a conscience. ? is presented in this short sequence. This little sequel is symbolic of the authors desire to be able to speak freely of the truth that is being uncovered in front of the narrator?s eyes. And as a miraculously cured boy suddenly discovers his ability to talk, the author unveils and admits the truth of his life to himself.
Zerkalo incorporates three time schemes, one changing the other, that together constitute an autobiography of the artist, and a biography of two Soviet generations within a wide-ranging context of Russian, European, and world history, linked together subjectively by dreams, memory, time, and art itself. The short sequences from the pre-war years are being replaced by the more modern ones, i.e. 1970?s times, which are in turn suddenly replaced by the director with to the themes of war itself. The off-screen monologue introduces the recollections of the narrator?s childhood and his adult life that are being elucidated with the visualry of the images on the screen. The leaps between the scenes are perceived smoothly and line up into one picture. However, the view point that is being presented has an unusual approach: the past that is being shown is built up not simply of direct experience but is being presented as a mosaic of what the narrator knew firsthand, what he was told, what he dreamed or imagined, and what happened around him as part of a historical process that he shared with millions of other people. The dream and memory seem to overlap and intermingle, sharing the same visual and auditory imagery merging in time frames, with characters belonging to past and present appearing together.
There are no loud scenes or spontaneous eruptions, but the underlying feelings of grief and guilt that are tormenting the narrator are obvious without showing emotions too vividly. The film is not an outburst; it is a quiet amusement with hitches of sadness, troubles of poverty and hunger, sorrow, loss, regret, fear, longing and desolation; but at the same time, love and hope. It is probably one of the greatest ?sensual? films ever created. As Tarkovsky himself revealed the title Mirror is just an accidental thought that happened to accord with his personal feelings and psychological contemplation. Thus, the purpose of the film according to the director himself is ?its inspiration, is that of a homily: look, learn, use the life show here as an example. ?
Although it seems so simple, the title is much more than just a sudden thought. Mirror is not just a sudden word, it has deep cinematic, psychological and philosophical implications and overtones within the film. Common to Tarkovsky, already seen in Solaris and later in Nostalgia, cinematic technique, of multiple reflections is important in Mirror. The multiple reflection of the same people traveling through time in various mirrors is a center motif of the film. Mirrors here become the instruments of a magnificent time machine that is capable of juxtaposing the time and space of different generations; and yet the mirrors distort, refract, double and present in a new, more truthful or erroneous way the physical objects and human relationships in the film. The full understanding of the events that construct the story-line itself comes only by the end of the film, when the viewer is left with something more important, more valuable than a simple context: the time sequences and repetitions that construct what is known as life.
Zerkalo is a clot of life, the images here should not be deciphered: they are to be perceived as they are. ?The further a viewer is from the content of a film, the closer he is; what people are looking for in cinema is a continuation of their lives, not a repetition. ? It is a dialogue between the past and present in which the narrator uses the memories and experiences of others, as well as his own, to enlarge his personal consciousness and free himself from his stifling egoism and self-centeredness. This is gauze of perception, an example cinematographic expressionism, where the feelings make up the essence of the film. Tarkovsky has revealed to the journalists that Zerkalo is an autobiographic depiction of the events, or rather of the situation of after-war Russia. This fills the film with the atmosphere of poignancy, but yet warmth, compassion and deepness. The senses of personal affliction and deep contemplation create an aura around the personages that all become brushstrokes of paint on the canvas of the great expression.
?The director takes us through different aspects of memory?memory as conscience and memory as guilt?and then combines within the space of one final sequence two points in time ?: the tenuous barriers between dream and memory, past and present, real and imagined characters, that have held for most of the film have begun to crumble, culminating in the final scene, which as in Ivan?s Childhood or Solaris, provides a vision of reconciliation of the conflicting forces in the hero?s life.
We are back in the sunlit landscape and the dacha of the past, with the young mother and father lying in the grass. ?Would you rather have a boy or a girl?? he asks her. She smiles, not answering, then sighs and looks away. Joyful choral music swells on the soundtrack as the camera cuts to the mother as an old woman, followed by the narrator as a little boy. The old woman leads the little girl by the hand as the boy follows, and the young mother is seen, choking back tears and then smiling, as if watching them. The old woman and the two children walk rapidly across a field in long shot; as the boy leaves the frame the young mother is seen standing in the middle of the field looking at her future self, perhaps in deliberate visualization of the Russian proverb: ?Living life is not like crossing a field.?
1.Johnson V.T. & Petrie G. The Films of Andrey Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1994
2.Tarkovsky, Andrey. Sculpting in Time,, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1986
3.Turovskaya, Maria. Tarkovsky: Cinema as Poetry, Faber & Faber, Boston, 1989