Highly metaphorical and obsessively personal, Andrei Tarkovsky's "The Mirror" can be difficult for audiences raised on the mainstream movies of Hollywood.
Tarkovsky's 1976 film (screening Friday night as part of UC Irvine's Through the Looking Glass series) is as anti-Hollywood as it gets. What there is of a plot shifts in space and time as if all the characters and events are moving in dreams.
No tidy resolutions, no easy steps from here to there. But what "The Mirror" lacks in simple logic it makes up for in satisfying emotions. By following the hero, Alexei (Oleg Yankovsky), an artist reflecting on his own life and Russia's history, we see a collage of individual, often magical images.
Tarkovsky, probably best known in the United States for "Solaris" (1972), something of a sci-fi cult film, has never been known for a literal approach. "The Mirror" is his most avant-garde film; one critic described it as a Rorschach test for the viewer.
The movie begins enigmatically with a therapist on TV trying to cure a stuttering boy. Alexei's 12-year-old son watches in his parents' Moscow apartment; then we're transported to the country, where a young Alexei, mirroring his own son, is gazing at a strange white bird.
The scene soon switches to a woman washing her hair. She turns out to be Alexei's mother, who confronts the camera with a mysterious look. From this oblique opening, images and scenes glide into and over each other; even newsreels of the Spanish Civil War and Leningrad during World War II figure in the mix.
While there is barely a story to tie it all together, "The Mirror" finds connections in the longings of Alexei. He longs to understand his past, his land, his family, his inspirations and fears, and that's what the movie is able to convey in its abstract but persuasive way.
* What: Andrei Tarkovsky's "The Mirror."
* When: 7 and 9 p.m. Friday.
* Where: The UC Irvine Student Center, Crystal Cove Auditorium, near the corner of Bridge Road and Pereira Drive.
* Whereabouts: Exit the San Diego (405) Freeway at Jamboree Road; go south. Turn left onto Campus Drive, then right onto Bridge Road.
* Wherewithal: $2-$4.
* Where to call: (714) 824-5588.