Tag Archives: cinema


“Passing life’s halfway mark, I lost my way in a dark wood”
– Andrei Tarkovsky, The Mirror (film)


One of my jobs is in a library. I always like to shelve the books first. I’m hidden deep in the stacks, focused intensely on tiny sometimes obscured sequences of numbers, letters, dots and slashes.  I work in the arts and music section, the books are all lovely and tempting…but last Tuesday when I came in I could see there was a DVD shelving emergency underway, so I gave the books a longing look, and got right to work on the towers of DVDs. Still, I have preferences. I always start with the foreign films, then documentaries, and only then attack the regular collection. I find the foreign films more interesting, plus there is a stool on wheels that I can skate around on while running through the alphabet in my head over and over again, which makes it more fun.

Sometimes I don’t shelve them. I put them aside, and when I have a minute I go downstairs and check them out. That’s how I came to watch Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Mirror.

The paradoxical thing about a task like shelving books is that it requires deep but meaningless focus. It’s just numbers and letters. But then there is the actual object in my hand, which can trigger thoughts, memories, and feelings. My shift is two and half hours and it feels very like to what watching The Mirror feels like: somewhat stream of conscious, deep in thought, with memories, words and images coming from all directions creating a quiet, sometimes profound emotional rhythm.

There is no story, really. Not in our minds, and not in The Mirror. But the engrossing drama of  (presumably) Tarkovsky’s childhood memories,  twisted up with his mother’s history; the sequences of Tarkovsky’s father’s poetry, read by the narrator (A. Tarkovsky);  the beautiful cinematography: by random turns, black and white, and then color; the dreams and nightmares, anxieties, regret and hope all converge to express, I think, a visual representation of the deep recesses of our minds in which our foundations, if examined, can be all revealing. Just a glimpse, maybe. But a flickering light in between the letters and numbers of our lives.

*photograph taken by Augustus Accardi



love harmóniák

I am not at all moved to write specifically on the subject, on the event, of Valentine’s Day. This is for at least two reasons:
a) I have never appreciated the commercial pseudo “holiday-ness” with all of its banal pink hearts and God forbid -teddy bears.
b) I am irreparable.

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

But I was thinking a little. And then I got to thinking about love scenes in movies. And then I began to think about a film that I saw that had, in my opinion, one of the best love scenes ever filmed in movie history. Love scenes are tricky things. Invariable they go one of two ways: they are either all about the passion or all about the love. And very often don’t realize either. The reason why this one is so amazing is because it is both. The film is The Werckmeister Harmonies by Hungarian director Béla Tarr.

It is an amazing experience, filmed in very long shots, some of them up to 10 or 15 minutes long. Some of the more famous scenes can be viewed on you tube, but I don’t recommend this. The “shower” scene is one of them, but to fully appreciate the impact of the moment you really need to have let yourself get absorbed in the entire lead up. It is worth it.

The love scene to which I allude, alas, is nowhere to be found on you tube. It may very well be that I am alone in finding this scene extraordinary. So be it. It takes place in a kitchen of a prepared-food shop where the young protagonist has gone to pick up a meal for an older gentleman. That alone is enough to recommend itself to me.

I really love to see food preparation and kitchens in films. This is a kind of austere eastern European kitchen, the young man brings a container to get the food. The container is perhaps ubiquitous in Budapest, I wouldn’t know, but it is a wondrous object to me. A series of interlocking white cylinders that attach together with long metal clasps on either side making a handle on top. I love the way it looked, and the way the woman spooned the food into it, so expertly and indifferently.

A little later on, almost vis-á-vis nothing (or at least I can’t really remember why exactly), the camera goes back to this kitchen; there is a man sitting behind the counter eating, a little greedily. A woman sits on his lap waiting for him to finish, a little impatiently. When he is done, they look at each other for a moment, and then kiss. With passion. And then they pull apart, and look into each other’s eyes. There in each other’s gaze is everything they feel, and it is so lovely: the emotion of it. Dead serious, playful, sweet, lustful…it is pitch perfect. And then they pull themselves to one another to kiss again: she pulls him by his scarf to her, or he grabs her, it goes back and forth in this way.

That is all. It’s fairly chaste, but all that could be revealed in film on the subject of romantic love is there. It’s very moving. The entire film is very moving. True, other than me, it’s probably not anyone’s idea of a “Valentine’s Day” film. It’s really a devastating exploration of  societal madness. It remains however a brilliant film with as tender and beautiful a love scene as ever there was. So, happy valentine’s day.