This is one of my favorite movies, and it is by one of my favorite directors.
Before watching the movie, it is important to know the format of the movie. The movie is not telling a story in a chronological order. The movie is a character study, studying the narrator through his relationship with his mother and his wife. It fluctuates back and forth between past and present quite often, and this transition is made especially confusing by the same actress portraying both his wife and his mother.
So do not watch this movie expecting to see a story. This movie is not a story. This movie is a picture. This movie paints a picture of the narrator, as well as of his wife and his mother through a series of memories. Do not try to get a story line from this movie. Just seek an understanding of the qualities (especially the flaws) of the characters. Think of the movie as being an analog for how we access our memories when creating a picture of a person in our mind. When we think of our mother, we do not follow a chronological path in the order in which memories come to the forefront of our mind. So neither does Tarkovsky follow a chronological path in which the events in this movie are arranged.
When you stop trying to find a story, and just seek an understanding of the characters, that is when the remarkable beauty of this picture unfolds.
While Tarkovsky's movie Andrei Rublev is my favorite movie by him (and possibly my favorite movie by anyone), I think that the tranquil farmhouse scenes in this movie are my favorite scenes from any movie, especially the scene where the family barn burns down.
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