Brilliant film, terrible DVD
Vlad | Brooklyn, NY United States | 10/27/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having watched this movie since I was in my early teens, I have bought the DVD published by KINO ON VIDEO, and oh my, Andrei Tarkovsky must be rolling in his grave knowing what they did to his masterpiece. For those of you who don't speak Russian, I feel very very very bad for you, because of the terrible translation of the movie. Aside from the poems in the movie, that were previously translated by the professionals, the translation sounds as though it was done by fifth-graders. And not just because it is done in the high-school level English. HALF of the speech is not translated at all--a lot of important chatter is completely missing in the subtitles. Many things are oversimplified and revealed, instead of letting the viewer dig them out him/herself. Those of you who don't understand Russian are doomed to be tortured by such translation and never to reveal the true beauty and meaning of the original script. Having read all of the subtitles, I understood a lot of things in a wrong way, different from the way they were intended in the first place, and had zero satisfaction from the movie. Thank [deity] I'm Russian.The ugly yellow subtitles can NOT be removed--they will stay on the screen forever while I watch the movie and irritate and upset me with the abovementioned crimes against Art.The supposedly "black and white" scenes, which originally had a silver-ish quality to them, and some were in sepia, are now in plain B&W a la Fellini's La Strada. I used to have a feeling that the bushes were made out of steel and silver, but not on this DVD.DVD has ZERO extras, and thank [deity] they divided the movie into chapters for easy scene access, but even there they managed to screw up. Upon skipping to a chapter, the scenes do not start from the beginning, and you actually skip halfway into the characters' speech. For Tarkovsky movies, I would NORMALLY recommend R.U.S.C.I.C.O. editions, but not in the case of Mirror. Yes, as any R.U.S.C.I.C.O. movie, it has very good subtitles, in a dozen languages. But, the problems with the picture and sound are even worse in their edition, albeit better picture quality as opposed to the grainy KINO quality. R.U.S.C.I.C.O. tried extremely hard to make the movie more enjoyable, and, apparently, overdid it. The lighting does not match with the original movie, as they try to make every object more distinctly seen and illuminated. They increase sharpness in places where it shouldn't take place, such as "hand-on-fire" image, thus depriving the illusion that the hand is on fire. Remastered sound often fails too, as many sounds are louder than others and overlap each other out of order. But I digress. We have no other choice but to choose between either KINO or R.U.S.C.I.C.O. edition of Mirror. I suggest buying both :) so that you could experience the near-proper picture quality of KINO and the proper translation of R.U.S.C.I.C.O."
An absolute must-have!
hakob | Las Vegas, NV | 03/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Andrei Tarkovsky's THE MIRROR (1974) is his most personal and artistically daring film--and to me, ultimately his most moving. A semi-autobiographical work, it interweaves poems, dramatic scenes, dreams and newsreels to evoke the inner symbolic world of the protagonist, his nostalgia for the past and his troubled relationships with his wife and mother in the present. At the same time it is a meditation on the nature of Russia, from the nation's role as mediator between the East and West to specific historical events such as the Stalinist purges of the mid-to-late 1930s and World War II. Indeed, few works of art say more about the Russian people with such economy.The cinematography, by Georgii Rerberg, is so richly detailed that it frequently takes your breath away. Many of the shots are deliberately reminiscent of paintings by Breughel and Leonardo da Vinci. The soundtrack is equally beautiful, layered with natural sounds, electronic music, classical music (by composers such as Bach and Pergolesi) and poems (written and recited by the director's father Arsenii Tarkovsky, a noted Russian poet). The film undoubtedly benefits from its superb cast, which includes many popular and highly respected Russian actors. The voice of the Narrator is played by Innokenty Smoktunovsky; Margarita Terekhova plays both the Mother and the Wife. Other actors make indelible impressions in smaller roles: Anatoly Solonitsyn (the Doctor), Oleg Yankovsky (the Father), Alla Demidova and Nikolai Grinko (the mother's colleagues at the printing factory). For those who speak Russian, it's a pleasure just to hear their finely tuned dialogue. Although the film was widely criticized for being too difficult to follow, it was also praised by many Russian critics for capturing the spirit of an entire generation. It may not be to the taste of everyone, since it is constructed more like a poem than a conventional film narrative. However, for those who are willing to make the leap of faith, it is uniquely rewarding. Kino on Video's new DVD looks absolutely stunning. Having seen the film a number of times in various less-than-ideal incarnations on video, I was impressed at the way the DVD captures the richness of the film's cinemtography. The film is above all a sensuous experience, so every extra bit of detail in the image and sound helps add to its overall emotional impact. Kino has used the same transfer for their new VHS edition, but the DVD is clearly preferable and it's the same price. It doesn't have any special features, unlike Kino's new release of Tarkovky's THE SACRIFICE, which includes a making-of documentary. However, it's hard to complain when the film itself and the video transfer are so satisfying. In summation, I can hardly recommend this particular title more highly."
Stunning Evidence that Cinema can be Art
Thomas Smith | Austin, TX USA | 06/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The ultimate Tarkovsky film in many ways, but the one that may prove most challenging and difficult without the proper background information. I highly recommend the Johnson & Petrie book, "The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue," it is very enlightening and makes clear the fact that "Mirror" is not a confusing film but indeed Tarkovsky's tightest and most sincere work. Incidentally, the actual title doesn't contain "The", it's just "Mirror." Truly one of cinema's greatest masterpieces, a landmark in subjectivity and the dreamworld/natural world duality. The greatest attribute of this film rests in its unflinching gaze on the depths of human experience, a fluid odyssey into the heart-straining visions of a brilliant man's soul. Considered by many Russian cinephiles as Tarkovsky's greatest film and the personal favorite of many of their finest directors. Of course, the picture quality of the DVD is much better than the VHS, but it isn't anything to get excited about. I haven't come across any fantastic Tarkovsky DVD treatments other than the Criterion "Andrei Rublev". The mother/wife and young narrator/son are played respectively by the same actors and the subtitles don't include the names, so take care not to confuse the characters."
Snow Leopard | Urbana, IL | 01/20/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Be sure to read Vlad's review of the shoddy quality of this DVD. As a non-Russian speaker, I am essentially spared the awful knowledge of just what has been done to this film.At first viewing, unless you are an incredibly perspicacious viewer, this movie will be utterly baffling, partly because Tarkovsky has gone to such lengths to blur past and present. The same actress plays the protagonist's ex-wife in the present and mother in the past and the same actor plays the protagonist's son in the present and himself in the past. Sometimes the present is in color, the past in black & white; having established this expectation, Tarkovsky then reverses it on you later. Yet other times, dreams are in color and reality is in that tantalizing shade of sepia-color-black & white that Tarkovsky has used elsewhere (especially in "Stalker").In fact, I was so baffled when I first saw the film that I simply gave up trying to follow the narrative and basked in the intense beauty of the film work. The dream sequence of the mother washing her hair, for instance, is utterly mesmerizing. The long shot that carries us from a table out to witness a burning building is breathtaking in all of the various reflections and reversals of angles it uses along the way. The final shot of an old women and two children walking into a field as the camera pulls slowly into deeper and deeper woods until finally the people are completely concealed by the trees often chokes me up, and I couldn't tell you why. Even the opening scene, simply a conversation on a fence by a field, is an exquisitely choreographed ballet of cinematography.This most personal of Tarkovsky's intensely personal body of work is essentially biographical, but no self-respecting member of the Russian intelligentsia, at least not one of Tarkovsky's disposition, could ever justify such a self-indulgence as mere biography. Consequently, we never see the protagonist, save for his hand when he is ill and overhearing his voice. This erasure of his adult self, and the inclusion of newsreel footage of key historical moments during the protagonist's life, aim at creating a generalized biography for all of Russia. An especially striking moment shows news footage of Russian soldiers slogging muddily through a bog. As soon as one has the full impression that this is human life in a thoroughly degraded condition, a voiceover of one of Tarkovsky's father's poems talks of immortality, sublime beauty, the very loftiest of human sentiments on spirituality. The contrast is deliberate, but not ironic, and illustrates a triumph of the human spirit in even the most unlikely of places and times. Elsewhere, Tarkovsky makes a religion of elevating the mundane. In his book on his work, he admits that one of his techniques (he denies there is anything symbolic in his work) is to focus on an object for so long that the viewer inevitably begins to wonder at, and thereby increase the significance of it.Perhaps if the subtitles were better, I'd better understand the film. As it is, the sheer intensity of the films gorgeousness never ceases to amaze me. The dream sequences alone are simply amazing. There have been other movies that might here or there exceed the Mirror in beauty for a moment or two ("Picnic at Hanging Rock" comes to mind), but I've never found one that can even come close to matching its consistency throughout. This is without question, the most visually moving film I have ever seen."