Mirror opens with a prologue in which Ignat (played by Ignat Daniltsev who plays both the protagonist's son and the adolescent protagonist in this film) turns on a television set. What follows is a show in which a speech therapist is helping to cure the speech impediment of a teenage boy with a stutter. She has the boy focus his tension in his hands then snaps and tells him to repeat after her: "I can speak!" (Я могу говорить!) Before he is even able to repeat the full sentence, the scene cuts to the main titles.
The abrupt end of this prologue feels unfinished or unresolved. That is perhaps the best attitude to approach Mirror with as the film continually slips from present to past and memories merge with perceptions.
It is a complicated and complex film, but not a messy one. The film requires a kind of attention that we both lose and discover on the screen.
It is here, perhaps more so than in any other film by Tarkovsky, that a Proustian search for lost time is most manifest. Deleuze would describe the cinematic experience of time as one in which the crystal image allows for a break in time that maintains both a presence and past:
“What constitutes the crystal-image is the most fundamental operation of time: since the past is constituted not after the present but at the same time, time has to split itself in two at each moment as present and past, which differ from each other in nature . . . Time has to split at the same time as it sets itself out or unrolls itself: it splits in two dissymmetrical jets, one of which makes all the present pass on, while the other preserves all the past. Time consists of this split, and it is this, it is time, that we see in the crystal. The crystal-image was not time, but we see time in the crystal.” (Deleuze, Cinema 2 81)
The past and the present, through which the past is diffracted, express the multifaceted nature of memory that Mirror explores.
We are presented with a paralyzing problem from the start as the film cannot be divided into fragments and then re-collected to prove a point. The point, if there is any, is that the movement and flow of the film allow for it to be seen as it is.