Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors.

Vitaly Churkin.

Western media is giving much coverage today to the Russian ambassador Churkin's UN press-conference where he used a curious phrase, 'the kingdom of crooked mirrors.' This quote is from the BBC report (follow the link to read in full and watch the video):

But speaking to the UN Security Council, Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin accused Western powers of distorting reality.
"Sometimes it reminded me of the kingdom of crooked mirrors because some members of the Council were not concerned about the fact hundreds of civilians are dying."

In case you are wondering what is this kingdom he was talking about, it is a reference to the Soviet fantasy film The Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors (1963, wiki here, watch the video below) based on the novel of the same title by Vitaly Gubarev (wiki about him). The translation is a bit awkward but that’s how the film was titled in English. ‘Crooked mirror’ is a literal translation of the Russian term “кривое зеркало” — distorting mirror as the ones used in ‘hall of mirrors’ attractions at fairs and carnivals. The Russian name for such attraction is “комната смеха” — ‘room of laughter.’ 'Crooked mirror' is also used figuratively to mean distorted reality or distortion.

In the film, a young girl Olya falls through the mirror and, together with her mirror image twin Yalo, accidentally finds herself in a magic kingdom where all mirrors are distorted to show the opposite of what is real. The girls who played Olya and Yalo are real-life twins. Characters in the film have talking names spelled backwards. 

The chase starts when the girls decide to save a boy called Gurd, drug (friend) spelled backwards, a glassmaker who refuses to make the lying mirrors for the rulers of the kingdom. He is beaten and chained to the top of the Tower of Death to die slowly. In the end the girls overthrow the tyranny, the mirrors are smashed and evil characters turn back into creatures that their names represent, for example, Anidág-Gádina (viper) into a snake, Abáje-Jábba into a toad, and king Yagoupop-Popugay into a parrot.

It’s a bright, cheerful film with lots of music, catchy phrases and exciting play on words. I loved it as a young boy and then introduced my own children to the film, who enjoyed it as much as I had.

There are recognisable motives from Carrol’s Through the Looking Glass, but Gubarev must have also found inspiration in Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen. In Andersen’s tale, a troll makes distorting mirror that turns all good into evil. The mirror is smashed and shards are scattered all over the world. One gets into the little boy Kai’s heart. An animated Russian version of The Snow Queen was released in 1957 and has been a top children’s favourite ever since. (Wiki about the film here, it was restored and dubbed into English in 1990s.) 

The Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors:

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