Sound + Vision: ‘Mirror’ – Memories as Details of a Painting

by Adhika SigitJun 15, 2021

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Sound + Vision is a column that pairs film reviews with playlists inspired by the films reviewed. For this edition, we are joined by Adhika Sigit who chose Mirror, considered to be Andrei Tarkovsky’s most personal film, as his pick.

Зеркало (international title: Mirror)
Director: Andrei Tarkvosky
Released: 1975
Country: Russia

Listen to the playlist inspired by Mirror below.

When asked about what advice he would give to the younger generation, legendary Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky said: “I think I’d like to say only that they should learn to be alone and try to spend as much time as possible by themselves. This desire to be together in order to not feel alone is an unfortunate symptom, in my opinion. Every person needs to learn from childhood how to spend time with oneself. That doesn’t mean he should be lonely, but that he shouldn’t grow bored with himself because people who grow bored in their own company seem to me in danger, from a self-esteem point of view.”

Dedicated self-reflection is an activity that is either being unwittingly neglected due to our continuous connectedness brought on by the advent of technology, or is formalized in a series of instructions, motivating phrases, and advice; packaged nicely on apps, YouTube channels, and Instagram accounts devoted to tell us how to best process our thoughts. Meanwhile, one could say that, by definition, it should be completely personal due to each person’s thoughts and subjective conscious experience being irreplicable.

In his fourth film, Mirror, Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky offers an epic exploration of dedicated self-reflection. In what arguably is his most experimental work in a filmography full of groundbreaking features, he re-examines the ways that film can intimately depict the very nature and experience of introspecting one’s life experiences.

From the seat of a viewer, the film does feel like it translates that experience of a person recounting memories in one’s life like we probe details of a painting in film form. Where do you start to paint a painting? It’s always presented to us complete as a whole, viewed as a whole, and yet the painter must have started the painting from somewhere. Of course in memory we do know the order of events in our life, but as we embody the experiences that these events gave us, we become more than the sum of it. A gestalt whole that can’t be dismantled to its parts in timestamps.

When we look back to moments and memories that make our lives whole, it comes in random flashes of different times. Imbued not only with the emotions we had at the time of the memory, but also interspersed with the thoughts and new feelings we have in the process of remembering it. Just like the painting, it must have started from somewhere, yet when we view the complete painting, we view it as a whole and then we peruse its parts and details in random, regardless of the order of the strokes which had made the painting.

Mirror is a film worth revisiting in these current times to remind us of the grace recovered when we take time to reach within ourselves, pondering over each brushstroke that painted our lives.


Score: 9/10
Favorite scene: the “closure”, where we follow the wind blowing through the fields and into a house, ending with a shot (via the mirror) of a child holding a bottle of milk. This scene deserves the award for the most poetic camera movement of all-time.
Watch Mirror if you like: The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011), A Ghost Story (David Lowery, 2017), and Baraka (Ron Fricke, 1992) or Samsara (Ron Fricke, 2011).
Highlight: Margarita Terekhova, the catalyst and face of the entire experience.

About the Author

Adhika Sigit
A software engineer by trade and a dilettante of any art/media form which piques his interest, sometimes those two intersect. Currently based in Kamakura, Japan, working for a community-focused tech company.
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