Looking at the “Mirror” Again

Surasri Chaudhuri

They talk smoothly, with conviction. Young and Old Russian men and women roaming around Red Square in Moscow. Not stuttering like ‘Yuri’ of Andrei Tarkovsky’s movie ‘Mirror’, who needed a therapist to enable him speak fluently. For the past few days, all the media channels talked endlessly about the celebration of Victory Day in Russia on 9th May, the day on which Red Army formally pronounced victory over Nazi Germany in 1945. The Ukrainians’ apprehensions, the stance of the big brothers of NATO and the USA, speculations on major escalation of the ongoing war, some kind of truce at the cost of some parts of Ukraine coming under Russian control... and so on. Watching them, I wondered how Tarkovsky would have felt, had he found himself back home, 9th May, 2022, riding on some kind of time machine. I can only vaguely try to comprehend what made him leave his most beloved country after the making of ‘Mirror’, the mystical autobiographical movie that could ultimately be crafted under the banner of Sovexport Films, after repeated refusal of the script by the state-owned financier. And I also wonder whether it is sheer coincidence, that from February 2022, when Putin launched his ‘special military operation’ against Ukraine, several classic movies from Sovexport Films are available in the YouTube.

I was watching ‘Mirror’ again, after many years. The movie that digs up deep spiritual roots of this man, Andrei Tarkovsky, with effortless voyages back and forth in time. The movie grasps you. His longing to connect with his home, his family, his past, his country’s past, even the white buckwheat flowers that grew in abundance in the village he left behind. He left it all, just to be able to speak what he thought to be the truth. He died in self-imposed exile at the age of 54 and was conveniently stamped as reactionary by most leftists, in Russia and beyond it.

If he came back now, and considered a kind of remake of ‘Mirror’, wouldn’t he follow the Ukrainian refugees with his camera? Wouldn’t he use footages from a recent documentary The Living, about the Ukrainian famine ‘Holodomor’, dating back to 1932–33, the genocide of the Ukrainian people committed by Russian state, in his own inimitable way, as he did with images of Spanish Civil War? Then there is another footage showing Russian army marching in Crimea, 1943. The cameraman was killed in the front. Now in 2022, for the remake, he’ll probably choose to shoot images of Ukrainian farmers learning to use formidable-looking arms, digging up trenches to bury corpses, and of village girls being summoned to Russian army bases. How fervently I wish he was here, now, in this equally savage world as he had left it several decades ago, and tell us the truth we all need to hear, time and again. I wish today’s Natasha and Alyosha waving Russian flag at the Red Square stand in front of their very own ‘Mirror’, and try to comprehend what Tarkovsky wanted to say. Perhaps they could try reading aloud Alexander Pushkin’s letter quoted in the movie. Probably they’ll start with faltering speech, like Yuri, and then gain a certain kind of strength to speak normally. And then they’ll see the truth.


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Vol 54, No. 51, Jun 19 - 25, 2022