Mirrors have long played a significant role in human lives. Since the earliest days of polished reflective rock being adopted as the first mirrors, they have adorned our homes for decoration, provided a convenient spot to check our reflections, and have even appeared in our mythologies, folklores, and pop culture! Whether written into classic novels or old fairy tales or featured in our films and TV shower, mirrors have often represented a significant story device or provided needed symbolism in our stories. Today we’ll be looking at the latter, by examining the mirrors which have appeared in classic cinema. Here are our top three usages of mirrors in cinema:
Snow White is a classic German fairy tale first published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. It has since been adapted for film in the classic 1937 Disney animation and again for a live action reboot in 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman starring Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth. The mirror, famously a magic mirror which can communicate with its user, makes the mistake of identifying Snow White as the most beautiful woman in the land instead of her stepmother, the evil queen.
Dorian Grey is another movie based on classic literature. First based on a book called The Picture of Dorian Grey, the film follows the titular character who is gifted/cursed with eternal youth. A painting of Dorian shows what he should look like and grows increasingly decrepit as the movie progresses. A mirror hung nearby shows his eternally beautiful reflection. At some point, he begins to despise his looks, and smashes the mirror to represent this.
Black Swan is a 2010 psychological thriller following Natalie Portman as Nina, a ballerina slowly losing her grip on reality whilst trying to maintain the intense training regimen and impeccable performance standards of a ballerina. Mirrors are featured heavily in the movie and often show distorted images or reflections that don’t exist as Nina’s sanity unravels. The usage of mirrors in Black Swan is steeped in symbolism, from the use of multiple mirrors reflecting her face back at different angles to represent her fragmenting personality, to the scene where she desperately scrubs a rude insult off her mirror. In a fight scene between her and the titular antagonist, Nina stabs the Black Swan with a shard of shattered mirror, later revealing that it was in fact herself that she stabbed.