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

Laggies
Film Review: Laggies

Disappointing comedic entry about a late-20s slacker who won’t grow up is writer/filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s first outing directing someone else’s material. Points here for strong cast and an occasional chuckle, but otherwise there’s just no point. More »

Rudderless
Film Review: Rudderless

Well-done indie drama about a lost-soul house painter reborn through rock ’n’ roll is a nice actor’s showcase for star Billy Crudup and an impressive directorial debut for actor William H. Macy. But in spite of some good work onscreen, both hero and story lack the edge and originality to carry this drama beyond respectability. More »

Camp X-Ray
Film Review: Camp X-Ray

Army guard and Guantanamo detainee form a grudging relationship in a thoughtful but far-fetched drama. More »

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Film Review: The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

As charming as it is delicate, this unusually low-key, if a tad overlong, animated feature brings yet more prestige to the famed Ghibli output. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. More »

Birdman
Film Review: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Virtuosic camerawork and a stellar ensemble of actors more than make up for the occasional moment of portentous twaddle in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's latest—and maybe his best—film. 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