It is loosely autobiographical, unconventionally structured, and incorporates poems composed and read by the director's father, Arseny Tarkovsky.
The film features Margarita Terekhova, Ignat Daniltsev, Alla Demidova, Anatoli Solonitsyn, Tarkovsky's wife Larisa Tarkovskaya and his mother Maria Vishnyakova.
Innokenty Smoktunovsky provides voiceover and Eduard Artemyev the incidental music and sound effects.
Mirror is structured in the form of a nonlinear narrative.
It unfolds as an organic flow of memories recalled by a dying poet (based on Tarkovsky's own father Arseny, who in reality would outlive his son by three years) of key moments in his life both with respect to his immediate family as well as that of the Russian people as a whole during the tumultuous events of the twentieth century.
In an effort to represent these themes visually, the film combines contemporary scenes with childhood memories, dreams, and newsreel footage.
Its cinematography slips, often unpredictably, between color, black-and-white, and sepia.
The film's loose flow of visually oneiric images, combined with its rich – and often symbolic – imagery has been compared with the stream of consciousness technique in modernist literature.
The main concept of Mirror dates as far back as 1964.
Over the years Tarkovsky wrote several screenplay variants, at times working with Aleksandr Misharin.
Their mutually developed script initially was not approved by the film committee of Goskino, and it was only after several years of waiting that Tarkovsky would be allowed to realize the project.
At various times the script was known under different names, most notably Confession and A White, White Day.