Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Michael

The Banality of Evil gets full cinematic treatment in this skillfully made but unpleasant film.

Feb 14, 2012

-By Eric Monder


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1310218-Michael_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Michael “rips from the headlines” the kind of story we hear all too often about abducted children living for years in the basements of their captors. To his credit, director Markus Schleinzer refrains from exploiting the situation and has turned his concept into more of a sociological essay than a character study. If viewers are able to get past the grim premise, they will be rewarded with an interesting movie.

In Schleinzer’s story, Michael (Michael Fuith) seems to be an ordinary insurance salesman living as a bachelor in his house in Vienna. What his family and colleagues don’t know is that the stoic Michael has imprisoned a ten-year-old boy (David Rauchenberger) in his home and is treating him like a slave. Though Michael is somewhat antisocial and never invites anyone into his house, no one is curious about his private life. Meanwhile, the little boy grows increasingly angry and agitated about the psychological and sexual abuse. After Michael is given a promotion at work and seems happier about himself than ever, an incident with the boy leads to an unexpected conclusion to the ordeal.

Michael is at its best depicting how we never really know other people, even those closest to us. Schleinzer juxtaposes scenes between Michael and the boy with scenes between Michael and those in the outside world and the contrast is stark, chilling and, in the darkest way, somewhat humorous. Similarly, scenes of abuse are followed by scenes of religious piety. Thankfully, the story’s worst moments of pedophilia are not shown, as they occur off-screen, though one must feel sympathy for the child actor, David Rauchenberger, having been pushed as far as he goes. In this one way, Schleinzer could be faulted for a kind of abuse himself. (Sadly, this treatment of child actors is nothing new.)

Schleinzer’s technique (aided by cinematographer Gerald Kerkletz and a great sound-design team) uses detached, still takes to create his grotesque “family scrapbook,” so it is best not to seek out character subjectivity or understanding. However, the lack of music, visual stylization or overt moralizing helps to make the scenes disturbingly convincing. Ultimately, it is the performances of the two leads that set the film apart as a memorable and significant work. Fuith and Rauchenberger might even be just too good—the film is that hard to watch at times.


Film Review: Michael

The Banality of Evil gets full cinematic treatment in this skillfully made but unpleasant film.

Feb 14, 2012

-By Eric Monder


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1310218-Michael_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Michael “rips from the headlines” the kind of story we hear all too often about abducted children living for years in the basements of their captors. To his credit, director Markus Schleinzer refrains from exploiting the situation and has turned his concept into more of a sociological essay than a character study. If viewers are able to get past the grim premise, they will be rewarded with an interesting movie.

In Schleinzer’s story, Michael (Michael Fuith) seems to be an ordinary insurance salesman living as a bachelor in his house in Vienna. What his family and colleagues don’t know is that the stoic Michael has imprisoned a ten-year-old boy (David Rauchenberger) in his home and is treating him like a slave. Though Michael is somewhat antisocial and never invites anyone into his house, no one is curious about his private life. Meanwhile, the little boy grows increasingly angry and agitated about the psychological and sexual abuse. After Michael is given a promotion at work and seems happier about himself than ever, an incident with the boy leads to an unexpected conclusion to the ordeal.

Michael is at its best depicting how we never really know other people, even those closest to us. Schleinzer juxtaposes scenes between Michael and the boy with scenes between Michael and those in the outside world and the contrast is stark, chilling and, in the darkest way, somewhat humorous. Similarly, scenes of abuse are followed by scenes of religious piety. Thankfully, the story’s worst moments of pedophilia are not shown, as they occur off-screen, though one must feel sympathy for the child actor, David Rauchenberger, having been pushed as far as he goes. In this one way, Schleinzer could be faulted for a kind of abuse himself. (Sadly, this treatment of child actors is nothing new.)

Schleinzer’s technique (aided by cinematographer Gerald Kerkletz and a great sound-design team) uses detached, still takes to create his grotesque “family scrapbook,” so it is best not to seek out character subjectivity or understanding. However, the lack of music, visual stylization or overt moralizing helps to make the scenes disturbingly convincing. Ultimately, it is the performances of the two leads that set the film apart as a memorable and significant work. Fuith and Rauchenberger might even be just too good—the film is that hard to watch at times.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

War Story
Film Review: War Story

Infuriatingly slow, enervating and basically empty contemplation of war's impact, and a waste of the formidable talent of a gallant Catherine Keener. More »

Happy Christmas
Film Review: Happy Christmas

Joe Swanberg's latest feature is a collection of strong individual scenes and performances that never quite finds its statement of purpose. More »

Very Good Girls
Film Review: Very Good Girls

More of a meandering, misguided path than a road to hell, Naomi Foner’s directing debut, starring Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen as 18-year-old BFFs, is similarly filled with good intentions. More »

The Kill Team
Film Review: The Kill Team

Marine Adam Winfield goes on trial in a case in which U.S. soldiers murdered innocent Afghanis. Strong subject marred by poor narrative choices. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Get On Up
Film Review: Get On Up

Chadwick Boseman is sensational in this multi-faceted portrait of troubled, pioneering soul-music giant James Brown. More »

Guardians of the Galaxy review
Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

With Marvel’s backing, cult filmmaker James Gunn blasts off for the stars and takes audiences along for a wild, funny ride. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here