The Mirror and its social criticism

There is this sense of nostalgia in the film the mirror directed by Jafar Panahi. This film takes you back to those days in school when you used to wait for your parents to come and pick you up as soon as you are done with classes. A flock of girls running out of the school gates like birds flying out of cage, the atmosphere, the sense of freedom and the wait to get back to your nest. This fills up the first few minutes of this film. We follow the first grade school girl Mina on her journey back home when she realizes that her mother is not coming to pick her up. The school at least till some time is a prison, until you make friends over there. This girl is restless and wants to immediately fly back home. She waits but there is a lot of impatience in her, she knows nothing but mere landmarks on the way to her home. She encounters a lot of people on her way back home, most of them try to help her but others don’t even acknowledge her existence.


Adults have their own issues while children are in the world of their own and both treat each other’s issues as trivial. There are vehicles running like race cars on the streets of Tehran and this child jumps and runs and leaps to get to where she wants to go. A few times she holds strangers hands and burqas, but most of the time she runs without even looking at the vehicles passing by. This almost feels like a mirror to the kind of dangers lurking around the lives of children. We see the world through the eyes of this kid and how she perceives it. She can sense a blossoming love story between two adults on a bus or a mere attraction between them. She encounters an old lady and her constant complaining about how bad her life is.

These are the conversations she over hears, yet she may or may not be able to understand. Where the director deserves the applause is that amount of social commentary he tries to squeeze in from the background noise or the talks this kid over hears. She is a part of it and yet is not a part of it. Kids in an adult’s world play a part of mere observers or at least they are forced to be. They observe and try and make sense of everything happening around them. The conversations in the background range from an elderly woman complaining about her life to an argument between a couple in a shared taxi. Now this is my favorite part, how Panahi casually brings in a strong feminist message in this casual conversation. The woman here is arguing with her husband who is complaining about having to work both outside and at home. Their argument goes on covering all the subjects from equal wages, equal rights, equal distribution of work, ownership of property but at the end leaves no conclusion. The director here is just throwing torch on some societal issues and subtle Socio-political commentary in this casual banter between the couple.

The title of this movie ‘The mirror’ is metaphorical in many ways, this film even though follows the girl and is about her journey it’s not completely about her. There are no visual metaphors or references to this but what this film is trying to do is to hold a mirror to the society around us. This film is more about the world around the child than the child herself. It makes you question the reality and at times makes you think if imaginary world was better. This is a kind of film you would want to re-visit. I want to conclude by quoting a line from Sylvia Plath’s Mirror.

Sylvia Plath

“In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman

Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish”

Now these lines have Easter eggs and chicken wings about this film and The white balloon and it’s for you to find 😉


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