Le Miroir [Leila Murton Poole, Australia, 2020]

The Romans believed that your life would renew itself every seven years and any issues you had would be solved. If, however, you broke a mirror, you would have seven years of misfortune on a standing order to make amends for your shattered image. Two thousand years later, the superstition still stands.

Le Miroir is a tale woven around this belief that encompasses love, loss and fate. Having lost both her parents in a fire, the enigmatically chic orphan Mathilde now lives with Madame B, an ex-opera singer with a fatal track record. When she breaks the Madame’s most treasured mirror, she must go on a quest to fix the mirror and find her voice. An homage to European style quirk and Parisian charm, this short is a visual treat that is ultimately undermined by its lack of originality and depth.

The symmetrical shots, mid twentieth century aesthetics and curated kook that make Wes Anderson’s films so successful are deployed in full force throughout the film. The recurrent theme of walls bedecked in similarly circular records, plates and hats is particularly charming, but the true winner is the costumes. Mathilde is enviably clad in a simple black dress that small touches - a gold pendant here, a green silk scarf there - bring to life again and again.

Much like The Grand Budapest Hotel [Wes Anderson, USA, 2014], the short is narrated by an older man who appears in the story as his younger self. Also like Anderson’s instant classic, Le Miroir is dominated by symmetrical shots, vibrant colours and delightfully bonkers characters. Clearly, writer and director Leila Murton Poole makes no bones about openly drawing on the filmmaker’s style. And why shouldn’t she? Anderson’s films are successful for a reason and Murton Poole’s emulative style certainly reflects some of his distinctive charm. But, unfortunately, reflecting is all it does. Rather than relying so heavily on pre-made tropes, Le Miroir may have benefited from using these influences to find its own style.

Another issue is the thinness of the plot. Mathilde strikes up a friendship with Tobias, a friendly shopkeeper that helps her fix the broken mirror. After photogenically traipsing through a forest, the mirror is magically healed. ‘How can I ever repay you?’ she asks. He replies: ‘the price has been paid’, seemingly gesturing toward some undercurrent in their relationship that appears to have come from nowhere. Without sufficient build up and chemistry between the characters, half-expressed sentiments like these lack the clout they need to work well. Likewise, a string of events is left underdeveloped. From the secret diaries to the death of Madame B, it is necessary to provide more substantial storylines to make these interwoven events have any real meaning.

While these aspects hold the short back, it is still an aesthetic triumph that has some potential if the story were a little more developed and a touch more original. In Murton Poole’s next film, perhaps she should try to renew rather than reflect.


'Le Miroir' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2020.

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