Mirage is a new coming-of-age movie by director Svetozar Ristoviski that is the tragic story of 12-year-old Marco whose life in the slums of Macedonia makes the stories of Charles Dickens seem like Sesame Street. The film doesn’t have an upbeat moment contained in it’s 107-minutes, but the beautiful photography and the stunning performance by young angelic actor Marko Kovacevic makes the movie not only worth watching, but an emotionally rich viewing experience that you won’t soon forget.
Marko’s world is collapsing around him as Macedonia’s tumultuous social, economic and military transitions are ripping the country apart. Marko’s emotionally detached mother is lost in her own world; his alcoholic, abusive father squanders away any money he gets on gambling; and his teenage sister hooks up with any man she meets in hopes of finding one to take her away. Marko is alone. A gang of local bullies, headed by the brutal police chief’s son, makes Marko’s school life unbearable - their constant beatings slowly build up a resentment in him that will have tragic results.
The only ray of hope in Marko’s miserable existence is his literature teacher who builds up his hopes by telling him he is a gifted writer with the ability to win a contest that could take him to Paris. Marko tries to rise to the occasion and write a winning entry for the contest, but his life circumstances constantly intercede and he is unable to concentrate enough to do any writing.
One day in his abandoned train car hideout Marko runs into a solider-of-fortune who stopped off at the town train depot to stretch his legs. They strike up a friendship and the soldier teaches Marko that he can take control of his life by showing him how to steal and sell his contraband at the local Black Market. Just as Marko is starting to open up, the man suddenly is gone leaving behind a single bullet for Marko. Marko’s nefarious activities land him in trouble with the local authorities, but he has gone down a path from which there will be no return. Something has changed in Marko and he is no longer willing to be a passive victim in his life.
Meanwhile at school Marko’s teacher tells him how disappointed he is in Marko’s work for the competition and abandons him to focus instead on one of his classmates. By this time Marko’s anger and resentment at his family, school, town and the world in general has built up to a boiling point. When the local bully threatens Marko with a gun, Marko slugs the boy, steals the gun and loads it with his bullet. He threatens the bully who runs off and then Marko makes his way to school where he finds his teacher and wreaks his tragic, but understandable revenge.
Mirage presents the story of Marko with no sentimentality to cloud its vision. We don’t know any more about what’s happening in Marko’s world than he does. In the backgrounds and around corners we glimpse scenes of chaos, military action and the harsh realities of a city on the verge of total collapse while Marko tries to make his way through his daily life. Marko comes to understand that he can’t rely on his family for anything and that his only hope of survival is to leave, which is the one thing he has neither the ways nor the means to do. Marko Kovacevic’s performance is the heart and soul of this film. His transition from a sweet-faced, golden haired waif to a buzz cut, scar faced, cold-hearted killer is chilling. In Mirage director Ristovski has created a window into the world of a child at risk in a country at risk in a world at risk. It is a chilling and disturbing story but well worth watching and a seldom seen look at a part of world that is off-the-grid and full of people with no way out.
The DVD from PictureThis releasing has only a few extra features but the previews of their other releases are worth exploring.
- Theatrical trailer
- Photo gallery