A Nietzsche aphorism at the beginning of the film gives a good indication what to expect in this sombre film: "Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man".
The backdrop of this film is the Macedonian town of Veles, still recovering from the ravages of civil war. Peacekeeping soldiers and armoured vehicles are very visible.
Marko is not a happy lad. His father is a drunkard and spends more time with his buddies drinking and playing bingo than at home, his slutty sister is a vicious bully, while his mother is intimidated into silence by her patriarchal husband and abusive daughter. And this is not the end of Marko's problems; at school he is is bullied by fellow students, some from influential families. The only one on his side seems to be his Macedonian language teacher, who, incidentally, originates from Bosnia. He encourages Marko, a smart lad, to take part in a poem- writing competition, the first prize being a trip to Paris. Marko does not waste time, and starts straight away.
Conditions at home are just not conducive for creative writing, and after some unpleasant domestic violence, he starts spending time in an old carriage in a train graveyard close to home. One day on his way home from school, Marko once again gets physically assaulted by the bullying thugs from his class, when his language teacher, who Marko thought was on his side, came cycling up, saw what was happening, turned around and quickly cycled away. One can't blame Marko for feeling very alone with nobody on his side.
Then one day he meets a drifter, ironically called Paris, who also moves into Marko's disused train carriage. Paris would teach Marko to stand up for himself, and look after his own interests, even if it means stealing. Eat or be eaten, he says. Under the influence of his new buddy, Paris, Marko becomes more rebellious and even has a few scrapes with the law. It looks like Marko's life, once promising, is now going in totally the wrong direction
This tense, tragic drama to a large extent shares themes with 'Joe, the King' (1999), Luis Buñuel's outstanding 'Los Olvidados' (aka 'The Young and the Damned') (1950), and the superb 'The 400 Blows' (aka 'Les Quatre Cents Coups') (1959) by François Truffaut, and compares quite well with them. Although I must add, the latter two films are in a class of their own.
I have been impressed by the imaginative cinematography displayed in'Mirage', whilst the character of the young protagonist was made believable through the true to life performance of Marko Kovacevic. The set is excellent too, with Veles, the smallish Macedonian town, as backdrop. I gladly recommend this film. 8/10.
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