Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors (Королевство Кривых Зеркал / Korolevstvo krivykh zerkal) is a 1963 film directed by Aleksandr Rou. Like the rest of Rou’s films, it is a fairy tale fantasy. The plot is based on the Vitali Gubarev novel of the same name. Often likened to Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, it’s a classic of modern Russian folklore.
Birthed in the Soviet Union in the 1960s, Kingdom of Crooked Mirror serves as a tongue-in-cheek critique of capitalism and Western hypocrisy. I say tongue-in-cheek because the film is a children’s fantasy tale. Now, if hearing that this masterpiece is a children’s story throws you off, I beg you to not leave just yet. Some of the finest works of Soviet film and literature come from fantasy stories, be they fairy tales or science fiction.
The kingdom depicted in this movie is ridiculous, and everyone knows it. The king is incredibly stupid and merely follows the orders of the rich elite that surrounds him. Perhaps you feel this way about your country’s president or prime minister?
Everything in the kingdom appears as the opposite of what it actually is. Correspondingly, the implication is that the United States and its Western allies were guilty of hypocrisy. Bear in mind, the film came out one year prior to the American 1964 Civil Rights Act and while the British Empire still existed.
All in all, Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors is well worth watching, as it’s one of the best executed Soviet critiques of the West in film.
After feasting on her grandmother’s jam with her cat, a young Russian girl named Olya finds herself able to step through a mirror. Doing so, she enters into the Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors. The ruler of this kingdom, King Yagupop (parrot spelled backwards in Russian), produces crooked mirrors that alter his subjects’ perception of reality. For example, the mirrors make the young look old, and the old look young. The hungry look nourished, and the well-fed look willowy. Basically appears as the opposite of what it is.
Olya’s companion in the kingdom is a girl named Yalo (Olya spelt backwards). When Yalo’s friend is imprisoned, the two depart on an adventure to free him. They soon find that the true power behind the throne is not King Yagupop but his rich scheming advisers. Eventually, Yalo and her companions take down the corrupt elites with the help a poorly treated servant. That servant’s name, Bar (Slave spelled backwards in Russian), is a clear nod to the proletarian Russian Revolution.
After the victory, the crooked mirrors become normal and the people of the kingdom can live freely.