Nostalghia06

Mise en Abyme

Let us proceed to the end of the scene which we highlighted in the last post and we’ll leave the rest of this masterpiece for your own inquisitive appetites to feast. If we were to describe the action in the preceding shot, the poet gets a drink of water and simply acts inside the nucleus of this elegant ten-dimensional telescope as if it wasn’t there. He aims his mouth upside down under the faucet, never once glancing at himself, foregoing the mirror, foregoing even the drinking cup for a direct sip. As he wipes his mouth and turns, exits toward us, the mirror serves as a halo and the doorframe are like the edges of an icon as formal; lovingly composed as anyone of those introduced at the end of “Andre Rublev.”

The poet comes back out of the bathroom and transfers a heart pill from a tin into his mouth, then stomach; inviting our awareness to pass from one dimension into another as easy as the passage of that pill. The poet advances to the dresser with a mirror that reflects the open window across the room. The geometric shapes from the previous shot of the bathroom are all re-represented here in reverse as if, in some type of omni-dimensional reflection inversions of all kinds can spring out in all directions. There is a rectangular mirror framing his head instead of a doorway and a spherical lamp approximately where the round mirror was in the shot before. He picks up a Holy Bible that is lying there and flips through it enticing us to escape to and from different realities with the filmmaker as easily as vanishing into a good book. The poet then looks over his shoulder and right in to the camera, for an instant, inviting us to merge with the character as easily as can happen when any two sets of eyes meet squarely.

A coin can be heard falling and rolling on the floor and fluttering to a stop with no apparent explanation other than beckoning our imaginations to slip between the threshold of curiosity as effortlessly as a coin slips through a slot. He walks away and leaves the book open on the dresser. Inside the front cover is a black hand comb with a hank of white hair wrapped around it.

The poet opens the door to the hallway. There stands the statuesque silhouette of the Italian interpreter. She leans back into the strong side-light in the hall facing him like Venus on the half-shell. Probably, she was responsible for the coin. What a bewitching way to capture the Poet’s attention behind his door. His book of poems she has calculatingly clutched to her breast, with which she next begins subtly whacking herself between the legs. Such an exquisitely encoded erotic gesture I have rarely seen.

It sure seems like it would be a nice time for a poet to make love to the beautiful and intelligent admirer with some of the passion she’s just finished devouring in the pages of his poetry. He takes the book from her, shuts the door again and throws it across the room. It lands in the corner. What is wrong with this guy? I think I know. I can’t answer for his love life, but what’s a piece of art to an artist after it’s made? A former mistress.

Left alone outside his room, she turns away, plants herself on all fours, sets her elegant frame in the starting position of a track racer, then she takes off fast-as-she-can through a threshold in the hallway beneath the staircase. High heels immediately loose their grip, she slips and collapses on fresh-waxed tiles like a baby bird trying out new wings. It’s such a beautifully quixotic scene. In any other film, we’d laugh, but it’s not presented as a pratfall. She picks herself up and bounds up the stairs laughing all the way as if nothing could make her happier than to be leaving the poet in his gloom.

Back inside his room, the Italian interpreter’s infatuation makes his dream all the more distant and irretrievable. He is simply in love with someone or else an idea of someone and someplace that perhaps represented home. He walks over to the window. The rain starts to get on my nerves. It’s sound is sharp and trebly, as if bits of glass or shards of broken china were being slowly raked and it positively saturates, dribbling on, relentlessly. He turns off the bedside light, opens the blinds. He sits on the edge of the bed in deep shade. He falls asleep sitting up but catches himself before he falls to the floor. He sits back up but swoons again, almost immediately, surrendering head first to gravity. He stops himself again in the nick of time.

This character might be said to have a female double in the part of Maria in Tarkovsky’s third film “Mirror,” the movie I started this series off with several months ago. Both characters seem lost in an obsession with the past.

The poet lies down on the bed. He could be crying. I feel like crying for him at this moment and just when the camera seems to have overstayed its welcome, in-through the bathroom door slips a German shepherd dog, just like the one in his dream. It encircles the bed and settles on the floor at the poet’s side. The poet reaches down and puts his hand on it.

Set aside, for the time being, the novelty of the dog’s appearance, practically out of thin air and appreciate with me the consequence of all the slow camera movements that precede it, all those dominant shadows, the poet inside them fluctuating between water and mirror, drifting between depression and sleep. We’ve been waiting for something to change and not much has.

Tarkovsky keeps it interesting but time has slowed down so much that we’re on the brink of snapping out of it. After he finally lays down, I expect a cut to the next scene, any second now, or else my thoughts will start to wander toward what I’m going to do after the movie, or perhaps those thoughts have already taken over for some of us in the audience when that magical dog steps through the bathroom door.

By the way, the animal comes from the room with the round mirror where the previous transcendent moment took place. This sleek, healthy, dog strides in and traverses the room. As if it knew just what to do, it then spirals into a prone position on the floor beside, where the poet lies. This bit of business suddenly puts us back to what we were waiting for all along and it rewards us for the extra time it took. This could be an example what Tarkovsky means when he talks about sculpting in time. In a sense, we travel to the future and back again in the last sequence of this scene.

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