Michael

"Excellent"

Michael Review


This story of a pedophile kidnapper is told in such a matter-of-fact way that it chills us to the bone. It's so impeccably shot and acted that it continually elicits our sympathies in ways we really don't want it to.

Michael (Fuith) is a nerdy insurance office worker who's hoping for a promotion. Privately, he keeps to himself, spinning stories to maintain some distance from his colleagues and family. But he has a very dark secret: there's a young boy (Rauchenberger) locked in his basement. In between unseen sexual assaults, Michael tries to create a normal home life for Wolfgang, cooking dinner, watching TV and taking him on outings. But Wolfgang grows increasingly annoyed at his imprisonment. Then one day Michael's hit by a car and wakes up in hospital.

This is only the first event that changes the dynamic between the man and child, as both are emboldened by their time apart. But this isn't a film about plot or action: it's about the mundane details of this horrifying situation, focussing on the loneliness both characters endure for very different reasons.

The sexual abuse is only hinted at, sometimes with shocking force, but even this is presented as an element in the power struggle between the two. As horrific as the situation is, writer-director Schleinzer refuses to sensationalise it.

And this stark sense of realism quietly erodes our own confidence as viewers.

Especially when we begin to understand Michael's dark impulses and self-doubt, or when we see glimpses of the startlingly cheerful, needy boy in him. With Wolfgang, it's the opposite, as we watch the defiance grow inside him, standing up verbally and then physically to Michael. And both actors give beautifully understated performances.

Through all of this, writer-director Schleinzer forces us to make the logical leaps in the story; by dropping hints and foreshadowing future twists of fate, we begin to think like both Michael and Wolfgang. Normality takes on a different meaning for these two characters. And the film's most haunting element is in the final act, as Michael's friends and family so understandably fail to see what's really been going on all this time.



Michael

Facts and Figures

Run time: 105 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 25th December 1996

Distributed by: WARNER BROTHERS PICTURES

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 36%
Fresh: 13 Rotten: 23

IMDB: 5.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Markus Schleinzer

Producer: Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Markus Glaser, Michael Kitzberger, Wolfgang Widerhofer

Starring: as Michael, as Wolfgang, Christine Kain as Mother, Ursula Strauss as Sister, Victor Tremmel as Brother in law, Xaver Winkler as Nephew 1, Thomas Pfalzmann as Nephew 2, Markus Hochholdinger as Kollege Kantine, Mika Sakurai as Tochter, Gisella Salcher as Christa

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