The Mirror Within
A film by Stefano Priori
“The Mirror Within” is the life story of Paolo, the film’s protagonist.
The film is structured in episodes which have emotional rather than chronological order.The episodes of his life as a small child and as an adult make the viewer aware of his complex personality,as they follow his imagination, untied to the chronology of events.
Certain dramatic occurrences concerning his family indelibly mark and condition the course of his life.His elder brother dies at the age of twenty, after having suffered since birth from a genetic disorder, which tests the whole family to the limits.
His disease had been conquered thanks to the extraordinary generosity of friends, who had paid for medical assistance in the United States. Despite defeating the illness, this formidable help is not enough to overcome the depression that causes his brother to fall into alcoholism, resulting in his death in a road accident.
Paolo’s rapport with his parents is often limited to the bare essentials for survival, with little dialogue.
His mother is exclusively taken up with her elder son’s problems and his father shows little affection towards Paolo, denying him recognition of his qualities and talents, and leading him to shut himself off from others.
The death of his brother further aggravates the family conflict which had been constantly present since he was born.
These traumatic experiences create in the young Paolo a strong desire to search for his identity through a spiritual journey, which draws him to prayer and drives him to experience the austerity of monastic life.
At the same time, in strong contrast to this, he discovers an attraction for the world of transsexuals, whom he begins to frequent assiduously.
This new aspect of his life, where the search for pleasure through casual sex is an end in itself, conflicts with his vocational leaning, and makes him hesitate about embracing it completely.
The stresses that life inflicts on Paolo increase and are in their turn repressed, so much so that they evolve into bipolar disorder, which manifests itself violently with hallucinations and which oblige him to be hospitalized. Paolo does not succumb and continues his search for identity, with the courage of one who wants to discover at all costs the origins of his illness.
During this journey of rehabilitation, Paolo becomes fascinated by psychoanalytical therapy. In this continuing search for himself he is assisted by a young female psychologist, through whom he courageously manages to analyze his relationships and the position of affection in his own life which, until then, he had always felt to be obscure, even hostile.
The therapy starts to have a positive effect and Paolo at last acquires an ever-increasing self-awareness, putting down roots for a new life. The search for a normal place in society, which would generally tend to smooth over the rough edges, does not represent for Paolo a desire to conform but rather a sense of freedom from the conditioning of the past.
The force of prayer, no longer tied to the idea of a monastic life, and his relationships with transsexuals, both continue in his adult life. Now, though, they are not experienced with suffering but with the serenity that contradictions can indeed be a part of existence.
In this new phase, he becomes an observer of the human soul. Even the routine of his relationships with transsexuals, which marks the end of the film, becomes an opportunity to observe the emptiness and loneliness of casual sex, transforming those experiences into something poetic and showing Paolo a new, realistic interpretation of life.