Sunday, April 17, 2005

A Mirror held against the soul

We celebrated every moment
Of our meetings as epiphanies,
Just we two in all the world.
Bolder, lighter than a bird's wing,
You hurtled like vertigo
Down the stairs, leading
Through moist lilac to your realm
Beyond the mirror.

Andrei Tarkovsky posited the Mirror(1975) onto his life. A life that he knew about his family glinted by sepia tainted memories, winter green deaths and rainswept conflagerations. It reflected off the contours of imperfect lives and their spiritual innards around him, unrelenting and unflinching. That the montage of art, history and spirituality went right through the soul as if a million rays converge to immortalize a human being.

When the movie begins to unreel, we find an adolescent overcoming his stutter under a spell of hypnosis. That is where Andrei wanted us to let the magical hold of "Mirror" to unwind ourselves. You let go of your fears and handicaps of inert words for your soul to begin a journey of self expression. When you do, you become kind and empathize, you sense the flow of time, you feel the pangs of waiting and despair and then you just be.

Word is the last to die.
When the drill of water pushes up
Through the subsoil's tough integument,
Sky will stir

There are references of two russians in the movie: Pushkin and Chekov. At the beginning of the movie we see a doctor passer-by who strikes a conversation with Andrei's mother (Maria) who is waiting by the fence of their house. When the doctor contrasts plants and trees to humans, who rush about and speak in platitudes, Maria mentions Ward #6, Chekov's short story (that dealt with the issues of conformism and the perils of sane/insane duality), implying that the doctor is insane. He says, don't worry, he is immune to all that (insanity); "Chekhov invented it all". Another reference is on Pushkin who in a letter wrote to a friend mentions the cultural and spiritual contexts of Russia being distinctly different and alienated from that of Europe by the invasions of Mangols and Tartars. Andrei is prodding us to look at the russian landscape with another eye.

The narrative of the movie is cyclic. You keep coming back to the same windswept green fields over Andrei's childhood home, you find Maria sitting by the edge of fence waiting for her husband and then years later, death; the walls made of logs, sudden cuts to fire burning at middle distance in field and the dark green woods behind.

We were led to who knows where.
Before us opened up, in mirage,
Towns constructed out of wonder,
Mint leaves spread themselves beneath our feet,
Birds came on the journey with us,
Fish leapt in greeting from the river,
And the sky unfurled above...

While behind us all the time went fate,
A madman brandishing a razor.

Andrei's memory of his childhood and troubled marriage is a blend of impressionistic paintings and profound photographic interpretation of dreams:
. Night, interior of Dacha (country house): Maria walks by the door and towards the window. unnoticeable freeze of the frame, the color of which turns into sepia. child in bed, sits up. Maria is washing her hair with help of husband. she goes towards a mirror and sees herself as an old woman. The house crumbles down in slow motion. Later on, Maria lay suspended over the bed, in black and white.

Dreams are given expression. You are awe-struck by the sheer contemplative detachment of the narrator on events. The music and poetry have evoked such depth that the nature with its elements of fire, rain and wind brought the organic evolvement of this miracle movie. The usual autobiographical ingrediants are seen in this movie as well. The scenes of childhood memory with newsreel footage and contemporary scenes examining the narrator's relationships with his mother, his ex-wife and his son, child custodial arguments, and those from history of the period (Prague spring, Mao, border disputes with china, holocaust, Leningrad blockade etc). The imperfect lives of Andrei, his parents and people around them have been a given an ethereal expression.

The last scene shows us camera panning down on Maria Maria leaning on husband's chest. she sits up, Husband asks "Do you want a boy or a girl?" She reacts by looking down, smiles, then tears cross her face; she looks away. The camera cuts to woods and pans left across garden, mother (Maria as old) and then pans left across the river bank under trees, insects, fallen trees, rotting trunks; mother walking to right, meets child, takes hand and walks on; cut back to Maria, still mingled joy and sadness on her face; then back to mother, still walking across field with two children; pan back as mother and children walking, sound of bird that boy was imitating; through trees, fade to dark.

...and that beauty I witnessed in Mirror shattered me.

A man has just one body a solitary shell
The soul thinks it quite shoddy
as many know so well
With ears and eyes outfitted
to cover bones and loins
So fly out through the cornea
into the vaulted sky
Up to those ice cold wheel spokes
where bird like chariots fly
And listen from the shackles
of your living prison room

Note: All the poems are by Arseny Trakovsky, Andrei's father.

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