I just finished watching it. It's been several years since I saw it last time. I worried that I may not like it as much as I used to...
I should not have worried - I love it even more now if that is at all possible. I've seen it at different times of my life - first, as a college student many years ago in Moscow; I keep returning to it all my life.
When Tarkovsky's Zerkalo (The Mirror) was first released, it divided the audience completely. I remember how my friends were passionately discussing it. One girl was complaining that she did not understand anything; the movie was confusing for her, dark, disturbing, the children characters - sad, pale, poorly dressed. I remember her asking, "Why did they show a boy in the opening scene that had an awful stutter, and they never showed that boy again? What did it mean when the dying man in bed was setting a bird free? How did he get the bird on the first place?" Another friend of mine, a guy, tried to explain the things to her. He suggested that she thought about the times Zerkalo was showing, he tried to explain to her Tarkovsky's symbolism where the bird could be representing life and soul of the main character and the boy with the stutter could mean that it was most difficult for people to communicate and understand each other.
I only listened to their argument and did not participate because I had not seen the film yet. When it finally happened, Andrei Arsenievich Tarkovsky was presented at the screening and he talked to the audience before the show. I remember him repeating over and over that there were no tricks, no puzzles, and no tongue-in-cheeks in the film; that every symbol, image, dialog, and sound was there because they belonged there. He asked us if we had questions. Someone from the audience suggested that we saw the film first, and then, asked questions. Tarkovsky replied that from his experience, not many viewers would sit through the film and who ever would, usually leave in silence, not asking anything. And then he told us a story. After Zerkalo was completed, it was first shown to the group of the famous critics. After watching it, critics started to argue about it, trying to find the hidden meaning and make sense of what they just saw. It went on and on until the cleaning lady who came to the screening room and had been waiting for the end of discussion to do her job, asked them for how long they would stay? Someone said to her that they were discussing a very complicated film, and they needed time to understand it. Cleaning lady asked, "What is that you do not understand in this film? I saw it also, and I understood everything." Critics were silenced for a moment, and then, one of them asked the woman to share her thoughts on Zerkalo. She answered, "It is about a man who had caused too much pain to the ones whom he loved and who loved him. Now he is dying and he is trying to ask them for forgiveness but he does not know how." After the pause Tarkovsky said that he had nothing else to add about his film to what the cleaning lady had to say.
I never understood complains that Zerkalo is a very confusing, difficult, and dark film. No, it is clear and deep as a mirror. Tarkovsky said so himself, and I believe him. Every time you look at the mirror, it will show you new depth and reflections. Past, presence, future, memory, love, guilt, forgiveness, beauty, sadness, nostalgia, and sacrifice - the mirror reflects it all -just watch closely. This is the film about his family, his country, and his times. Childhood memory and the memory of the past generations glued together. The film is a look back in time and sad realization that children reflect destiny of fathers, as in a mirror. Destinies reflected one in another.
Zerkalo is not just good cinema, it is pure cinema. Like architecture is music in stone, Zerkalo is poetry on screen.
My verdict The Best Film ever made, the top of my list (tie with Andrei Rublyov).