Reflections in the Mirror: Reading Andrei Tarkovsky through the Mirror of Ibn Arabi

By Javid Anwar Y. A.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Tarkovsky’s films demonstrate the working of the spiritual by summing up in an image the visible to convey density of the material that is invisible. His work constantly engages with the realms that perceivably do not have any appearance/form or visible expression. This relation is not a simple dialectic relation but a complex matrix encumbering multi-dimensional ideas of time and space, similar to that of Ibn Arabi. Ibn Arabi insists on the seeing of a thing, itself by itself. And it is not the same as itself being seen in another, as it were in a mirror; for it appears to itself in a form that is invested by the location of the vision, which would only appear to it given the existence of the location and its [location’s] self disclosure to it. Ibn Arabi uses the metaphor of a mirror to demonstrate the complex metaphysical cosmology about human reality. The mirror he was referring to cannot be understood as what we mean by the mirror in the present. Reading through Ibn Arabi, the ‘Mirror’ of Tarkovsky requires a deeper analysis. It becomes very difficult to differentiate the memories and reflections of a single person or many. It never follows time in its linearity; past, present and future are interwoven in an ambiguous way. The using of the same actors to represent different people gives us a complex/textured understanding of a nuanced situation. In many ways, Mirror becomes a form less one reflecting in many mirrors. Ibn Arabi reflects the same as he observes: “The natural order may thus be regarded [at once] as [many] forms reflected in a single mirror or as a single form reflected in many mirrors. This notion causes nothing but confusion [to the sense–bound mind] because of the divisive nature of its apprehension.” The present paper endeavors to catch this complexity in its nuanced form—the visible as well as the invisible—as can be read into the work of Tarkovsky inspired by the exposition of Ibn Arabi.

Keywords: Tarkovsky, Ibn Arabi, Mirror

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.73-86. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 809.077KB).

Javid Anwar Y. A

PhD Student, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

Javid Anwar Y.A. finished a MPhil from the School of Arts and Aesthetics of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Anwar’s thesis was submitted on Andrei Tarkovsky and the Poiesis of Immateriality, which analyses cinema from the point of view of the visionary experience and spirituality. The research was an attempt to go beyond the material to see the immaterial in the material. The analysis went through many philosophers from modern to medieval like Eisenstein, Heidegger and Ibn Arabi. My explorations in Sufi performing arts contain the experiences with renowned filmmaker Muzaffar Ali. This paper Reflections in the Mirror: Reading Andrei Tarkovsky Through the Mirror of Ibn Arabi tries to continue the research in the same line and focuses on cinema and intermediate image.