An old hunter lives in a home near the mountains, far from any town, village or city. His wife lies dying in their bed, kept alive on a respirator. He has a difficult time accepting the situation, refusing to accept her imminent passing.
One day, out in the woods, he encounters a dark presence, one that stalks him in the isolated forest. When it asserts itself, the hunter has no place to hide from its darkness -- or from the difficult emotions he's avoiding.
Written and directed by Sil van der Woerd, this short drama has no dialogue or much background information. And yet with thoughtful and precise narrative economy and impressive visuals, it communicates great depth and weaves fantastic suspense in telling the story of a man confronting the depth of his grief and sorrow.
Shot with muted yet coolly beautiful colors and beautifully composed framings, the film has a pristine, impeccable approach to its image-making and storytelling, one that belies its main character's emotional distance. But as it goes deeper into the old hunter's emotional landscape, it also takes on the visual language of horror and fantasy (along with impressive special effects), ramping up the suspense and tension of what has been a quiet, more internal story so far.
While the hunter grapples with his fears -- in this case, fear of his wife's death and the pain of losing her -- this isn't an average horror film, full of dread and terror. Instead, the cinematic language of fantasy and horror is co-opted to make the hunter's emotional terrain allegorical, through the guise of a shapeshifting presence of shadows, smoke and darkness that threatens to overwhelm and consume him. Allegory can often be very stately and perhaps distant, but here it is visceral, bringing to pulse-pounding life the process of being subsumed by grief and suffering. Actor Bosco Hogan's performance also adds a deeply felt element to a man who must bid his wife goodbye. With no words, his very bearing manages to convey immense emotion: sadness, grief and, eventually, love.
It's this love that makes the ending of "Mirage" all the more heart-wrenching and poignant in its restraint because it is the depth of the man's love that is the reason why his grief is so painful and even terrifying. As painful as grief and loss are, the sadness only becomes bearable when we remember the love it emerges from -- a love that the film's final images give reverence to, with simplicity and humble beauty.