July 8, 2012

Filthy Review - Michael

Michael (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

For his feature length debut, director Markus Schleinzer has pulled no punches in the subject matter of the film, or indeed the content of it. Michael is a film about child abduction and pedophilia, subject matters that could quite easily have been taken and turned into a trashy and exploitative mess. The fact that Michael is neither of these is a testament to not only Schleinzer’s director, but also his writing of the screenplay. Michael is certainly not the film that you might expect it to be.

German actor Michael Fuith, who also starred in the recent German zombie opus Rammbock: Berlin Undead, stars as the title character. He works in insurance and leads a quiet, so-called normal, existence, in fact to say his life is mundane and boring would be to undersell it completely. It is far from normal though, and is revealed very early into film that he has a 10 year old boy locked away in a room in his basement.

However, instead of taking the route of subjecting the audience to scenes of graphic cruelty, the takes the less is more approach, in so much as the audience is well aware of what is happening, but there is fortunately no need to show it on screen. This actually makes Michael harder to watch, as it conjures up images that no film could portray, or indeed want to portray.

Rather than focus on the more obvious and physical aspects of the relationship between Michael and his captive, Wolfgang, who incidentally is played quite wonderfully by David Rauchenberger, a lot of the focus is on how complicit Wolfgang becomes in the horrific situation he finds himself. There are many aspects to the relationship that could almost been seen as family-like in their portrayal, which in effect makes the entire scenario all the more disturbing to watch unfold.

The focal point of the film though is without a doubt Michael himself, and Michael Fuith puts in a chilling performance. This is not your archetypal monster, who through cheap tactics entices the viewer to despise him. Instead, Michael is just a cold and sad young man. He has virtually no people skills and you almost feel uncomfortable for him as he interacts with other characters. You will despise him of course, more for the fact that he isn’t portrayed as a monster, even though his actions are despicable, he is played as a deeply flawed human.

The fact that Schleinzer has infused a very rich vein of incredibly black humor throughout the film’s duration only heightens the discomfort the film resonates with. The humor, thankfully, is not in the actions between captor and captive but instead in other areas of the film when the action is drawn away from Michael’s apartment.

The film itself is a fairly slow moving affair, but this works in the film’s favor as it gives the viewer time to absorb the subtle details that are working in the film, and it also makes for an even more uncomfortable viewing experience. Michael is not a graphic slice of cinema, aside from possibly one scene that involves Wolfgang in an uncomfortable scene with a female companion, instead the viewers’ mind will do all of the work. You know what is going on, it sickens you, yet you are forced to confront it.

Michael is quite simply a stunning character study, the performances are terrific and Markus Schleinzer has set his stall as a director to keep an eye out for in the future. The DVD, which is another fantastic release by Strand Releasing, only has some trailers, as so far as special features go, but the film itself more than makes up it and comes highly recommended.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jude, have you read the comments section over on Soiled Sinema's reveiw of this film ?, its hilarious and so true.