The Mirror (Zerkalo) (1975) by Andrei Tarkovsky


(Wayne)  The Mirror is Andrei Tarkovsky’s 4th feature film and defied traditional cinematic conventions by acknowledging the artistic nature of film. The Story is non-linear as compared to the conventional 3 act structure. The loose flow of visually oneiric images has been compared to stream of consciousness technique in literature.-Tarkovsky is more then a film maker, he’s an artist. The film seems at first to be portraying the memories and visions of the narrator as he lays on his deathbed but soon becomes clear that it is something much more like all of his films.Tarkovsky’s use of colour is superb. He alternates between black and white, color and sepia tinted film to showcase the various natures portrayed on the screen. Tarkovsky framed shots and camera movements for aesthetics purposes rather then functional purposes. This is turn made his film more artistic and also put his at the forefront of camera artistry. Also, as expected from a Tarkovsky film, the visuals brillance is stunning and compensates for the narrative’s indiscernible qualities.

The Mirror depicts the thoughts, emotions and memories of Alexei also known as, Alyosha, and the world around him as a child, teenager and an adult. Although, the adult Alexei is only briefly glimpsed at, his voice narrates some scenes and his voice can be hear during substantial dialogue though we never get an actual proper look at him.

The Mirror contains Lyrical reminiscences of Tarkovsky’s mother and of his father’s poetry figure large in the film, along with extraordinary images of nature. (Zerkalo [The Mirror], Rotten Tomatoes)

The Mirror was also rejected by Filipp Ermash, the head of Goskino in July 1974, due to it’s incomprehensibility. It was later accepted without any changes in fall 1974. (The Mirror, Wikipedia)


There is no clear plot in The Mirror which makes it disorienting and hard to understand. Instead, the film rhythmically combines contemporary scenes with childhood memories, dreams and newsreel footage. (The Mirror, Wikipedia) The audience, if they do not understand the artistic reasons behind this film, would fail to understand The Mirror. It is not the story that is important in The Mirror, but rather the emotions gained from how Tarkovsky’s style decides to tell the story.

The flow of the dream-like images has been compared to the stream of consciousness technique in literature. The film’s complex and layered structure makes this one of Tarkovsky’s most challenging films.  It is not an easy film to sit through.

Film Style

As the movie itself is rather disorienting, it helps with the delivery of the message of the film. Mirror is a film about war, and because of the editing style, it causes the entire movie to be disorienting which is what war is like. That is the message Tarkovsky is probably hoping to put across by editing the movie in this way.

Tarkovsky is known for metaphysical themes in his films. He also uses dream-sequences and water in The Mirror in to symbolise the themes of purity and innocence from a materialistic world of war and wants. The Mirror has many dream sequences such as the water flowing down from the house.Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 1.24.34 AM

Although The Mirror feels more like a dream than reality, it is still very grounded. One key scene is when the wind blows through all the plants. Tarkovsky uses nature as an unpredictable element, where it makes the scene seem supernatural, but still real and believable.

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 1.19.36 AM

Tarkovsky also uses many extremely long takes sometimes from a distance and switching from scene to scene. One such scene is when the doctor meets Maria. During his long takes, Trakovsky directs the camera in many strange ways, mostly pans and then a tracking shot. The shot of going through the hallway, had no people, yet it seemed like he was following something or someone. Ingmar Bergman states that “Tarkovsky is always tracking round in every scene, the camera flying in all directions. I actually think it an objectionable technique, but it solved my problem, time passes.” (On Tarkovsky, nostalghia)

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 1.21.20 AMScreen Shot 2013-07-07 at 1.28.28 AM

Tarkovsky believes that Juxtaposing a person with an environment that is boundless, collating him with a countless number of people passing by close to him and far away, relating a person to the whole world, that is the meaning of cinema.” (Andrei Tarkovsky, Ringo) This is apparent in The Mirror. Some of his shots are just the furniture and plants, which contains no actors at all. One such shot is a 2 minute shot of Alexei is flipping through his book.

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 8.50.50 AM

Colour Scheme

The colour scheme is quite jumbled up. It ranges from black and white to sepia to colour. The colour scheme in the movie may depend on the time zone it is suppose to be in, with black and white and sepia clips meant for the other periods in the film and coloured ones to reflect the later, more modern clips. However, the black and white and colour scenes never seemed to have a fixed timeline, it keeps moving back and forth. Therefore it can be said that the chaning colour schemes makes the movie seem structured with the logic of a dream. (Zerkalo [The Mirror], Clarke Fountain, Rovi)

Tarkovsky believes that colour should be only used to empasise important events or places in film. He states “On the screen colour imposes itself on you, whereas in real life that only happens at odd moments, so it’s not right for the audience to be constantly aware of colour.” Tarkovsky also talks about black-and-white films saying that “In a black-and-white film there is no feeling of something extraneous going on, the audience can watch the film without being distracted from the action by colour.” Tarkovsky also feels that colour is “all too beautiful, and unlike life.” He uses colour to represent a world full of  the unknown.

Mirror 3

Mirror 2

Mirror 1


Some of the scenes can go without sound for a while with nothing but music in the background. In such scenes, they use music to tell the story and the emotions and to build up to the climatic moments which is very interesting and a nice change from dialogue doing the build up. In the scene where the cup stain on the table slowly disappears, the music was intense and scary, giving a feel that the lady sitting there before wasn’t even real.

Music speaks to a lot of people in a way that sometimes, words cannot convey and it does not matter what language you speak, music is a sort of universal language.

Historical Significance

This film was made after the war, and it is Andrei’s take on his own experiences in the war. The film itself was written by Andrei and is semi-autobiographical and very personal to him with poetry written by Andrei’s father himself being featured in the film.

New York Times critic stated that The Mirror “is delighting, puzzling, disaping serious Muscovite movie enthusiasts.” (Zerkalo [The Mirror], Rotten Tomatoes) Ingmar Bergman also states that “Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.” (On Tarkovsky, nostalghia)

The Mirror, has a poetic feel to it. It gives out more emotion rather than understanding. The film, like Tarkovsky’s other films, is meant to be interpreted rather than understood, containing more questions than answers.

Sarah-Cae is a media and communications student in Singapore Polytechnic. When she isn’t spending precious time on school assignments, she can be found writing or star-gazing. She also cannot be expected to resign to maturity.


Ringo, E. 1998. Andrei Tarkovsky. [online] Available at: http://www.andrei-tarkovsky.com/index.html [Accessed: 7 July 2013].

En.wikipedia.org. 1975. The Mirror (1975 film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mirror_(1975_film) [Accessed: 7 Jul 2013].

En.wikipedia.org. 1932. Andrei Tarkovsky – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrei_Tarkovsky [Accessed: 7 Jul 2013].

People.ucalgary.ca. n.d.. [ Nostalghia.com | The Topics :: Ingmar Bergman on Andrei Tarkovsky ]. [online] Available at: http://people.ucalgary.ca/~tstronds/nostalghia.com/TheTopics/IB_On_AT.html [Accessed: 7 Jul 2013].

Rottentomatoes.com. n.d.. Zerkalo (The Mirror). [online] Available at: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1036046-mirror/ [Accessed: 7 Jul 2013].


3 thoughts on “The Mirror (1975)

  1. Hey Sarah 🙂 Your essay could use some elaboration and examples for some of the reasons you give. Also you should add critic statements to support your points. The multiple colour schemes is one of Tarkovsky’s key styles, so maybe you can elaborate more on why he uses this technique and what it accomplishes.

    • Tarkovsky’s style is more artistic and dream-like, but is somehow grounded and real. Also I changed Film editing to Film style as The Mirror has more to it than the editing such as Tarkovsky’s extremely long takes. Do research more on Tarkovsky and the film itself. It will give a better understanding of the type of films he makes.

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