Objects in the Mirror: Micro-Narrative and Biomorphic Representation in Tarkovsky’s Zerkalo
A few of Andrei Tarkovsky’s films have become touchstones for their ecocritical and geographical content, but Mirror (Zerkalo, 1975) has, for the most part, been left out of environmental conversations. From its opening images and lines of dialogue, however, the film maps a number of striking possibilities about the role of landscape and objects in relation to both the human characters and the film audience. Throughout its duration, there can be found sections of film that continue to play after the characters leave the frame. These could be called “empty” frames or “dead” time, but upon closer inspection they reveal themselves to be full of life, movement, and even depict what I call micronarratives, small-scale stories told by objects and environments themselves.
These sometimes act in isolation, and other times involve the human figure in decentering ways. Using phenomenology and neo-formalism to investigate a number of moments of divergence from the anthropocentric narrative, I show that the film can be seen to point towards what Adrian Ivakhiv terms a biomorphic perspective that creates rare modes of sight and participation through the involvement and interaction of entities often considered to be within separate categories (e.g. living and nonliving). Tarkovsky leverages cinema’s distinctive combination of image, movement, time, and the illusion of space to allow viewers to notice what might otherwise remain overlooked or invisible. The paper draws on the work of philosophers, film theorists, ecocritics, and Tarkovsky scholars, especially Ivakhiv, Gaston Bachelard, David George Menard, and Tarkovsky’s own writings. “Objects in the Mirror” promotes dialogue between the discourses of ecocinema, landscape, phenomenology, and film theory by demonstrating a cinema’s ability to question the assumed hierarchy of content within the profilmic event