Michael is a deeply provocative film, a tough film to watch.
from Brighton, England
, 30 Mar 2012
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
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Michael walks into his house with some groceries, cooks a meal and sets a table for 2. In the basement, Michael opens a door into a dark room, a boy appears. The boy is Wolfgang, they eat, wash up, watch a bit of television and go to bed.
This is a daily routine for what appears to be a one-parent family, living in Vienna, Austria. Director Markus Schleinzer zooms in on Michaels life, he is single and works in an insurance firm, he has a mother, a sister and a brother. Michael takes Wolfgang to the zoo, they celebrate Christmas, hold hands as they walk the streets, play games and watch tv. All seemingly normal.
Wolfgang is 10 years old, but Michael is not in fact the boys father. Wolfgang has been imprisoned by Michael, a 35-year old paedophile. Schleinzer resists any moralising, and he holds back from showing anything explicit, but shares the nightmare of Wolfgangs abuse through suggestion. Our minds fill in the gaps, assisting in reinforcing Michael and Wolfgangs relationship which only increases the tension. Michaels all too believable scenario could be happening anywhere, he could easily be your neighbour, or a colleague in work, and you would never know who he truly is.
Often it is Michael who is the boy, unable and unwilling to handle adult responsibilities, and all too ready to just close the door when he cant handle it. In one particularly disturbing scene, Michael re-enacts a scene from a film in front of Wolfgang, who is unimpressed. For a split second, their roles are reversed. Wolfgangs imprisonment accelerates his journey to adulthood, while Michael becomes the child.
No matter how humane Michael was portrayed, your attention is always focused on Wolfgangs ordeal. The performances of Michael Fuith as Michael and David Rauchenberger as Wolfgang are excellent, especially the latter considering the subject matter. Schleinzer may have tried to humanise Michaels lifeless world to good effect, but some of the poorly conceived plot devices such as his scene with a woman and his accidents felt like he was merely filling in the gaps.
Schleinzers detached style did leave me feeling short-changed by the end, as if Michael had won. Wolfgangs nightmare is so locked in your consciousness, for once i prayed for some semblance of a conclusion. Schleinzers view on circumstances is certainly thought-provoking but was just too pessimistic for me. Nevertheless, Michael is a deeply provocative film.
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