Hidden Flick: Ascension and Release

We’re excited to bring back Hidden Flick, our column looking at under-the-radar movies penned by Randy Ray, for a special Thanksgiving edition. 

Sometimes, one seeks answers, asks questions and ponders secret avenues, and the reality is that is the answer—to get your hands dirty in the muck of life IS life. ‘Tis what it is.

Rising from that very dirt, and commencing with life yet again is what it is also about, eh? Murky edges of human history provide clues of progress, but the sands and waters of nature (literally, in some cases), wash over all that has come before, as if nothing really endures.

And so, we move forward, hopefully as one positive, life-affirming unit. And there’s that word again—life. Post-final edition, we find ourselves back with a look at a film by my favorite director, Andrei Tarkovsky. This time, we gather together the roots of family and society and survival and the bitter and blissful and beautiful toll that nature takes upon us all—human, inhuman, god(s)-based, or otherwise—in this edition of Hidden Flick, Tarkovsky’s Zerkalo.

In this edition (special or otherwise, indeed), we take a look at a film that explores the depth of dreams, history, generational impact, and the bond between family and their very surroundings.

Zerkalo aka as Mirror, in its English translation, is told in a surreal stream of consciousness format with music, spoken-word poetry, famous painting motifs pierced through the thread of cinematic imagery, flashbacks, flash-forwards, more flashbacks, more dreams, more present day 1960s (or, is that the past?), interspliced scenes of actual World War II footage, and a rich and dramatically vibrant portrait of nature’s enormously silent yet powerful hold over all of us.

It took Tarkovsky ten years to craft the script, and one feels that, although he wasn’t quite sure what he was saying, or how he was going to say it, post-Solaris, his 1972 science fiction metaphysical masterpiece, he had all the right artistic tools to release all of his will to the camera, his settings, his actors, and his innate ingenious ability to craft a scene in the mind’s eye, which proves overwhelmingly touching and timeless in a way that is simply breathtaking.

Tarkovsky spent his entire career filming scenes of nature blended with paintings, actors standing against magnificent backgrounds of human toil and existence, and the dirt, the work, the art, which colored all of his oeuvre is, perhaps, solidified to a singular fine point in Zerkalo in a way that wasn’t quite so vague yet memorable in the rest of his work. Yes, Solaris towers above all of his work, like Kubrick’s 2001 does to his own creative output, but there is something about the seamless stream of consciousness that lifts Zerkalo to an especially formidable height.

Zerkalo transcends its form, and offers a new language of visual and audio poetry, which resonates when one thinks that not only does nature take away, it certainly gives life, as well.

Gratitude comes when the mind is at rest, and, at this time of the year, it is often difficult to just sit down and think about what one is truly grateful for, and why what is cherished is so important and valid to existence, but looking at the power of nature, and how it endures in ways that are both mysterious and incomprehensible, only add to its value and complexity in a manner that we can only skip a stone on the surface of its definition—and the reality is that quest is the answer.

- Randy Ray

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