Margareta Terekhova, Philip Yankovsky, Oleg Yankovsky, L. Tarkovskaya,
Shards of memories—dreams of an individual, collective nightmares—do not merely haunt Andrei Tarkovsky’s most challenging work, they are the film, which invents, as Ingmar Bergman noted, “a new language, true to the nature of film . . . life as a dream.” Ostensibly an autobiographical portrait, The Mirror also offers a crash course in twentieth-century history, as stock footage of world upheavals—the Spanish Civil War, the Siege of Leningrad, the Cultural Revolution—intertwine with images of childhood: a field, a fire in a rainstorm, a father’s voice, a mother (played by various actresses, including Tarkovsky’s own mother). “I can speak,” a once stuttering boy clearly states, but only after being hypnotized; indeed, The Mirror seems refracted from a hypnotized world, where images reveal more than language ever could. “Words cannot express a person’s emotions; they are too inert,” insists a poem written and read by Tarkovsky’s father; Tarkovsky’s art, however, does just that.