“The idea of Plath watching and engaging the women of Bergman is almost too much to bear. Who would have more to say about these women than Plath?”
This is a beautiful video essay for the criterion collection that seems like a combination of our supercut and voiceover exercises. Kogonada puts together some very poignant and revealing scenes from Bergman’s films of women looking into mirrors, which feels like a kind of supercut. Then, a woman reads Sylvia Plath’s poem, “The Mirror”, aloud in the background with a Vivaldi classical piece, informing the women as they look at their reflections. The tone of the poem is sad and haunting, which creates a sad yet beautiful tone to the video as well. The images seem to unite together as one, and the poem expresses all of their thoughts harmoniously. They are never looking happily into the mirror and are almost always sad, in fact, one woman even writes on the mirror the word “lonely” in another language (Kogonada wrote text next to it to translate). Kogonada has really hit upon a perfect marriage between these two mediums. I love the way he chooses to begin with the shot of a woman gargling and lets us hear her gargle in front of the mirror, and then show the title, and then the poem starts as she bends down to spit. It is more striking this way. A woman is doing her every day routine in front of the mirror, it’s not pretty, it just is, and it’s also a weird shot to film for a movie anyway, since it seems so inconsequential, like showing a character going to the bathroom – there’s no point – or is there? All of these bathroom scenes in which women are grimacing at themselves or fixing their makeup and hair, serve no classical purpose, such as to advance the plot . The only explanation is to show these women’s mental statuses and their inner thoughts. Even though the camera can depict their images reflected in the mirrors, we have no idea who or what they see, what they’re really thinking, and why they shouldn’t love what is reflected back at them; they are beautiful but they can’t see it. Since Kogonada does not give us any context for the Bergman films, all we see are these short scenes of women of all ages prodding a themselves, full of distaste and curiously, longing to change their images. As the poem says:
A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.