I was once asked by someone very close to me, what is the best Tarkovsky film. By best, I clarify, she meant, the film which most truly represented Tarkovsky but was not riddled with his heavier subtext. I pondered but for a few seconds and then acknowledged it would be MIRROR (Now titled THE MIRROR). Its a humbling film. Visually stunning, majestic in its simplicity, but engages. For years it was in the wilderness. Unfairly compared to his popular films like SOLARIS, his best and STALKER, his most demanding. But like another of his films, ANDREI RUBLEV, it finally found a voice and now it has found this release from Criterion. There is little fixed narrative here. Depicting instead the inner thoughts of a man during his life. He sees destruction as a child, possibly war. During adolescent, he loves and longs. Then as forty-year-old, his life is in reflection and reframe. Some of this is suggested. Some is apparent, all is dream.

Like much of the work of Tarkovsky, we are expected to read the screen. I have a wealth of time doing this, in classrooms, in cinemas, in front rooms and elsewhere. When I read Tarkovsky now, it was different to what it was before. I really enjoyed it more now than then. Then it was harder, more esoteric and less experiential. Now I lived more and can reach into it. I see despair, faith, pain. I understand how memory can betray us. It can also redeem us. Validate our choices and sometimes make us see things. The irreconcilable dimensions of human logic with reality. Sometimes this reaches a verisimilitude that is profound. Other times it is merging through consciousness and leaves the viewer, reading air or reading grains of sand as novels.


I have the standard def release from Artificial Eye. That was sourced from a Mos film print. A lovely one. Same print here, better restoration. Cinematography is essential in Tarkovsky. Real world and not unreal digital. This restoration does a lot of one and a bit of the other. So the light is wonderful. Warm, summer. Simmering. Heat and light are on screen. Green is so deep. So intense. This heat, makes the screening cinematic. Then the unreal. The night. Slight dampening on the image. A slight green tinge. Not much but its creeping in.


Well done Criterion. Disc 2 has all extras. This is where you find the best extra. Andrei Tarkovsky: A Cinema Prayer, a feature film in its own right, is a work of compassion and compreshension. Son takes on father. Not setting out to do anything but acknowledge his mastery and comes away with a study of humanity. Islands: Georgy Rerberg, less a study of works, more a cineaste delight.


• New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
• Andrei Tarkovsky: A Cinema Prayer, a 2019 documentary about the director by his son Andrei A. Tarkovsky
• The Dream in the Mirror, a new documentary by Louise Milne and Seán Martin
• New interview with composer Eduard Artemyev
• Islands: Georgy Rerberg, a 2007 documentary about the cinematographer
• Archival interviews with Tarkovsky and screenwriter Alexander Misharin
• New English subtitle translation
• PLUS: An essay by critic Carmen Gray and the 1968 film proposal and literary script by Tarkovsky and Misharin that they ultimately developed into Mirror

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