An imprisoned healer is enlisted to rid a king of his demons

Graduating filmmaker Misha Vertkin brings us to the medieval age in his film ‘The Healer’. What starts as a supernatural horror soon becomes an exploration of mental health and how messy, chaotic and terrifying it can be where your mind turns against you. The entire film takes place in the King’s den, where an imprisoned healer is enlisted to rid of his lurking demons.

The film was part of our digi-film module at the National Film and Television School, where we’re given a small budget, 3 lights and told to make something “rough and ready”. Naturally, I complicated the hell out of it because that’s what I tend to do, much to the exasperation/joy of my crew (depending on who you ask)…

The idea grew from wanting to experiment with exploring something extremely personal and intimate – my struggles with mental health and the impact it’s had on my relationships – but wrap it up in as a period psychological horror, which I’ve always wanted to have a crack at. For years, I’ve been interested in using genre as a trojan horse to explore sociological, political and environmental themes, but always with a deeply personal and grounded throughline – so this was my attempt at that!

While the story and setting is contained, the film banks on the interesting perspective to the story’s progression. It shows us how anxiety and mental health was perceived in those days, and healers treated as sorcerers. The powerful performances from Juliet Cowan and Peter Faulkner really bring all the sensations and fears forward in this unique film. We look forward to seeing new work from Misha soon.

Having graduated this year in Feb, just weeks before the world imploded, it’s been a tricky old year for new directors. And although I’m developing a bunch of projects with various writers, producers and production companies, I’d love to get back into the fiction directing chair ASAP. Hopefully this short can nudge me in the right direction.