The Word of the Father / the Body of the Mother: Dimensions of Gender in Tarkovsky's Mirror


Supposed to occur between the ages of six and eighteen months – but at the same time seen as seeping into the ongoing identity formation of the subject – Lacan’s theory of the ‘Mirror Stage’ involves the successful identification of one’s body as one’s own. Yet the wholeness of the body with which the infant identifies is a mirage; experienced as an exterior image, its unity does not correspond with the infant’s as yet underdeveloped physical coordination. Further, the moment of self-identification is, simultaneously, the moment in which the subject is irreducibly split, since the sense of a singular, self-contained self can only be produced by its doubling in some reflective object: the ‘I’ is thus established as dependent on an ‘other’. This article explores Tarkovsky’s Mirror – as a film overtly concerned with the idea of a problematic sense of self – in light of Lacan’s theory. Mixing childhood memories of the director’s mother with the poetry of his father, Arsennii Tarkovsky, the film presents the attempts of a middle-aged, apparently ill man – the film’s narrator – to come to terms with his past. In particular, it is interested in the part played by the mother in that past. Though the father is himself largely absent, his word, in the form of his poetry, still appears to structure the son’s sense of self; the narrator’s relation to his mother, on the other hand, is more ‘visible’, but nonetheless troublesome. Moreover, her significance as the son’s ‘other’ – an essential yet repressed figure in the formation of his identity – is underscored in the film by the association of her image with the motif of mirrors.



How to Cite

Gavin, A., (2007) “The Word of the Father / the Body of the Mother: Dimensions of Gender in Tarkovsky's Mirror”, Opticon1826 2.







Alice Gavin (UCL)





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