The story of a dull office drone who keeps a kidnapped young boy locked in his house. Despite its subversive edge, feature successfully drains the shock out of a frightening premise and instead delivers a keen observational thriller.
Michael is a 35-year-old man who works in an office and lives in the suburbs in his own home with a 10-year-old boy… who is hidden in the basement. Michael is a pedophile and nobody – not his family, co-workers, and neighbors – know it. His victim knows but he is just a child, and for the meantime, he can’t do anything about it.
To say that the film ‘Michael’ from Austrian director Michael Schleinzer is controversial is an understatement. Hardly anybody in the film making business would tackle pedophilia and pedophiles at the center of a film, especially not with the point-of-view of the child molester himself. But in ‘Michael’ we actually are given a 90-minute peek at a pedophile’s life. You think it’s mundane at first and of course, you’re totally wrong.
Director Michael Schleinzer was the frequent casting director of Michael Haneke, a film maker who has a penchant for making viewers more than just uncomfortable. ‘Michael’ is a quiet film and it is in its quietness that the worry lies. The atmosphere from the first few sequences is already shocking. The quietness of Michael (Michael Fuith) himself, his crime, and the suburbs he lives in are more frightening. Imagine the neighborhood you lived in thinking nothing ever happened there and realizing you actually lived next door to a Michael. Cold shower much?
‘Michael’ lets the audience decide on how to make of the pedophile’s actions. We see a lonely man outside, seemingly living a normal life however lonely, but in reality, terrorizes a little boy (David Rauchenberger) within his own home. When ‘Michael’ was shown in Cannes, it received a few claps but mostly boos, the kinds of reactions Cannes films were made for.
‘Michael’ doesn’t romanticize the atrocity; doesn’t explain why Michael became the monster; and doesn’t want you understand why he does what he does. Hard what to make of this film.