HEAD NOR TAIL | Mirror

Mirror insists on meaningfulness even as it eludes exact deduction. By Louis Rogers

 

“In certain pictures,” writes author and photographer Teju Cole, “we can verify a character’s presence, but, without the clues of the confessional face, not what the character thinks. What has turned away contains itself.” Mirror is haunted, the way your dreams might be, by certain recurring images: running water, rushing wind, and human heads, turned away. Andrei Tarkovsky’s camera lingers and floats around them with tenderness, intrigue, respect; he seems in thrall to the potent ambiguity that Cole describes. In Mirror’s free-floating reverie, the backs of heads appear with the structuring regularity of linchpins or vertebrae. 

No one is about to dispute that this is an enigmatic, if not obscure film. It is impressionistic and plotless, with disparate clues to its potential meanings – poetry, archival footage, fragmented scenes – each pointing in different directions. But, unlike less interesting films that revel in crypticness for its own sake, at every moment Mirror becomes more arcane, it becomes more compelling. It’s like the back of a head, which as it turns and shifts and inclines keeps us guessing more urgently at the expression and the self it conceals. 

Don’t expect your curiosity to be repaid, exactly: the film does not finally turn and reveal its face. Instead, it stays with you, unresolved and unshakable. Mirror is dreamlike in many ways: its associative structure, its moves in and out of first-person point-of-view, the reappearance of the same faces (the same actors) across different characters. But its most oneric feature – or perhaps the feature most liable to ensure its place in our own dreams – is its inscrutable self-containment, irresistibly insisting on meaningfulness even as it eludes exact deduction.

 

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