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So, this movie is about a pedophile who's keeping a child in his
basement. It's such a terrifying setup that initially I decided against
seeing it. Then I read some very positive media reviews, which also
mentioned there was nothing graphic, and so I decided to give it a go.
(They also called it "darkly humorous", which I didn't see at all.)
When I first saw the kid's face, I almost turned it off- like I said, this is an extremely disturbing premise. I actually kind of wish I did; I had been expecting something different, like a police scenario, or some back story about him (we don't get any history of Michael or Wolfgang.) Once you see Wolfgang, you just have to watch and hope he is going to end up better off. I couldn't turn off the movie with him in that situation (yes, I know it's not real, but we also know things like this do happen in the real world.)
But rest assured there is no sexual contact between the man and the boy pictured in the movie- not even hugs or embraces- even though there's no doubt about what's going on. There is one scene where Michael takes out his penis, but it's about six feet away from Wolfgang, and it's not a sexual thing- he's actually making a weird joke (and it was shot in split screen so the young actor wasn't present for it.) The only explicit violence is against Michael, so you don't care, and even then it's not graphic.
Michael is not only a pedophile, but as far as I can tell, a sociopath. This is a different representation of a pedophile than Todd Solonz's "Happiness" where the pedophile does seem to have empathy and shame. Michael is absolutely without either of these emotions. There's also something very "off" about him (you know, besides being a sociopathic pedophile), as shown in his social life and sense of humor.
The movie is slow but not boring. It's very taut, and the ending had me holding my breath to see what would happen. (Some have said it's ambiguous, I didn't think so, but if you read the comments about the movie you'll get the director's view of what the ending was supposed to mean.) I wanted more denouement, but the comments also explain why the director chose to end the movie where he did. The acting is absolutely amazing. Michael Fuith is mesmerizing and brings out the banality of evil very skilfully.
I usually do well with disturbing movies, but this was a stretch for me. I avoid anything with graphic violence against children, and this does indeed fit that criterion, but it is about something so terrible that anyone who is not disturbed has something wrong with them, in my opinion. That said, I think people can still appreciate this movie as a well-written and well-acted one. I wouldn't recommend this for anyone with children; I just can't imagine having a child and watching this movie.
The subject of paedophilia is naturally never going to be a topic that
has people rushing out to theatres. It is what it is and it rightly
induces horror and repulsion in straight thinking adults. Yet to simply
stick our heads in the sand and ignore the issue is never the way to
go, thankfully some directors are prepared to take up the hot baton and
produce pictures to trouble and provoke thought in equal measure.
Austrian film maker Markus Schleinzer has produced one such film, which
is incredibly bold for his debut feature.
Story explores the relationship between a middle aged paedophile played by Michael Fuith and the young boy he keeps locked in a secret basement room at his home, the youngster played by David Rauchenberger. The youngster is not held in some dark and damp room with no light, he is not chained up, Michael has in his own mind provided a loving and healthy home for his captive. He clearly loves the boy, watches TV with him, cooks him meals that they then eat together as if a "normal" couple. It's this banality that is so chilling, where coupled with how we see Michael functioning as a normal hard working man by day, really gnaws away at the senses.
Thankfully, and rightly, the sexual abuse side of things is not shown, nobody wants to see that. The horror comes in the implications, or the aftermath and preludes to what our mind's eye is being prompted to create. There are extended periods of silence throughout the picture, often dialogue is clipped and kept to minimum to urge the viewers to piece together what is going through Michael's mind. This is the strength of Schleinzer's movie, he's not judging or sermonising, he's presenting a scenario that on the surface to the people outside of Michael's basement secret, is normality, and it's that that is harrowing. Monsters live and move amongst us, fact! But how come we never notice them? It's this that Schleinzer so subtlety has his film prod us with.
A bunk bed construction scene has never been so chilling as it is here, and you may - like me - never be able to listen to Boney M again without your mind wandering elsewhere. It's a tough film, it has to be, but it's expertly crafted without exploitation tendencies by the director and performed with skill by the two principles. To simply call it sick and disgusting is a cop out, the makers deserve a bit more credit than that. It's intelligent and balanced and does a fine job of provoking reaction from the audience. 8/10
Late on in this ice-cold drama from
casting-director-turned-writer-director Markus Schleinzer, a character
describes the titular character as, amongst other things, "impatient".
By now we the audience has come to know Michael (Michael Fuith). That
is, we know his routines; his day-to-day lifestyle; his attention to
detail; his agonising PATIENCE. For the last 90 minutes we've watched
him as he leads an unremarkable life around a remarkably evil secret:
there's a child in his basement, for use as a lover and a son. But no
one really knows Michael - perhaps not even Michael himself.
This is challenging viewing. Schleinzer has the same objective eye as Michael Haneke (with whom he worked on The White Ribbon), and the same devious wit. He uses his simple images reflectively, making the observer (re)consider their own assumptions and prejudices.
What's most disturbing about this film is not that it is wall-to-wall creepy, but how dreadfully normal everything seems. Outside the underground lair, the activities of Michael and Wolfgang (David Rauchenberger) appear on the surface to be those of an only child and a grumpy parent. We're helpless observers in this quietly unfolding nightmare.
Whether Michael is any more than an extended exercise in discomfort is debatable. It doesn't attempt to explore the psychology of its central character, as a film like The Woodsman does. It certainly doesn't provide any possibility of redemption. But there's an inarguable truth in the humanisation of this monster, and that's what makes this film valuable - even if it is the furthest thing from entertainment you'll ever see.
Austrian casting director, actor and director Markus Schleinzer's
feature film debut which he wrote, premiered In competition at the 64th
Cannes International Film Festival in 2011, was screened in the
Contemporary World Cinema section at the 36th Toronto International
Film Festival in 2011 and is an Austrian production which was produced
by producers Markus Glaser, Nikolaus Gehrhalter, Michael Kitzberger and
Wolfgang Widerhofer. It tells the story about Michael, a seemingly
normal, sociable and dutiful citizen who secretly holds a 10-year-old
boy named Wolfgang kidnapped in his house. Neither Michael's family
members, neighbours or colleagues has any idea of what is going on.
Michael treats Wolfgang as if he was his son, uses him as an object for
his paedophile fantasies and thinks he is in total control of his
adolescent victim, but Wolfgang knows that his parents is waiting for
him and he is dead set on finding a way out of his captivity.
Distinctly and precisely directed by Austrian filmmaker Markus Schleinzer, this surreal and nuanced fictional tale which is mostly narrated from the protagonist's point of view, draws a singular portrayal of a middle-aged insurance company worker's revolting and forced relationship with a defenceless young boy. While notable for its naturalistic and atmospheric milieu depictions, colorful production design by production designers Gerhard Dohr and Katrin Duber, cinematography by cinematographer Gerard Kerkletch, editing by Austrian producer, writer and film editor Wolfgang Widerhofer and the distinct and very efficient use of colors, this absurdly humorous and atmospheric drama depicts a condensed study of character and contains a good and comical score by German composer Lorenz Dangel.
This rhythmic, mysterious and at times very unsettling, which it should be and is also intended to be, story which turns into a psychological mind battle between a child molester and his hostage and which has a very fresh approach to a theme that is often, in films, portrayed in a much bleaker manner, is impelled and reinforced by its subtle character development, cogent narrative structure and the commendable acting performances by Austrian actor Michael Fuit, David Rauchenberger in his debut feature film role and actress Gisella Salcher. A quick-witted and picturesque directorial debut which gained, among other awards, the Vienna Film Award for Best Feature Film at the Viennale in 2011.
First let's say it, "Yikes". This is a minutely-observed, low-keyed, dispassionate movie about the domestic life of a pedophile and the little boy he keeps captive in his basement. (Again, "Yikes"). But it is certainly not without wit, and a kind of wry "fly on the wall" style that keeps one engaged even though the proceedings are kept on a low boil intentionally. (Thank God). The phrase "the banality of evil", comes to mind constantly, and I think it is not entirely coincidental that this is an Austrian film. The lack of histrionics, however, does not mean that the film lacks drama. Certainly not in fact it does create , at times, an almost unbearable tension. It has been compared many times to Haneke's "Funny Games", but in fact I find it far more subversive than that, as the Haneke film depends very much on a Brechtian "alienation" effect, whereby the filmmaker lets his audience know that he is intentionally manipulating them. "Michael" provides no easy "outs", and is, to my mind, a far more disturbing, compelling exercise. Truly a shocker, and extraordinarily well-done. Bravo. (But it is not for the timid).
There are a good many evil villains in film today; in fantasy, action and sci-fi epics, there's usually someone who is hateful and despicable and sometimes more interesting than the hero. In this film, the main character is unregenerate, committed to his quiet destruction of innocence and portrayed without judgement; it is up to us to judge him, and the verdict doesn't take long. This is a chilly portrait of a child molester at home, with his boy locked up in the cellar, and it is not a pretty film in any way, although powerful and well-made. Michael goes about his daily business, unsuspected by his office mates, and even given advancement by his boss. Then he goes home with some groceries and makes dinner for two, followed by despicable acts graphically hinted at. If this doesn't sound like something you would be entertained by, you may want to pass on it; the subject is ripe for sensationalism, but its execution is quietly observant and methodical.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This made me feel very uncomfortable at times but I was riveted until
the final credits.
The most disturbing thing about it is how the film seems to be able to make me as a viewer come close to identifying with this monstrous person. I think it does this by creating a cold and distant, even sterile production, with undramatic and bland lighting, detailed sound and repressed, understated acting. By the time we get to that truly awful funeral service everything is so hollow, that the realistic look of the film is actually more like a nightmare and it's almost like looking at the worst kind of pornography.
And that irritatingly sunny version of "Sunny" (shouldn't it be "Sonny" as in Sonny and Cher?) is still going round in my head.
I also wonder if it's a coincidence that the title is "Michael" when it looks so much like a Michael Haneke film?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a movie about a pedophile who keeps his 10 year old victim in
the basement, locked up all day. I watched it on netflix, at first,
because of the description, I thought that Wolfgang was a ten year old
dog. When I realized that it was a small child I was hooked and wanted
to know what happened.
The movie goes slowly, but I was truly amazed that pedos, who steal children, apparently all use the same line, whether in America or Austria, telling the child that his parents don't want him.
Both the role of the pedophile and the child are played by outstanding actors, I was relieved when the child was saved, and pleased, very pleased at the way the pedo ended up. Horrible things happen everyday to children, in Austria, in the US...interesting that the techniques these people use are so precisely similar. If these people don't kill themselves I believe that the state should if they are found out and convicted. We have no idea how to fix them and the child featured in the movie, MY NAME IS STEVEN never got over the horrors that were inflicted on him. If we knew how to fix them I might feel differently, but but I doubt it, I would prefer helping the children figure out how to get on with lives and grow...my tax dollars going for the defense of the pedophile, or for the meals, the cot and the health care of the pedophile in jail just inflames my sense of justice.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I hesitate to ask why this film was ever made, the subject matter is
abhorrent, why the people that financed this film thought it a good
idea I cannot imagine, so disturbed by it that I recommend that you
The ending following the principles death in a car crash after the abducted child scalds him with a kettle of boiling water, the subsequent funeral and the mother and sibling clearing his house and opening the cell door to be wondering had the child survived or starved to death as happened in the notorious Belgian case is beyond sick, to be left hanging after such distressing viewing leaves one to conclude that the script was written by someone of highly questionable moral standards indeed... Rarely have a film that I think not only should never have been made but this deserves banning...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I just watched this film on Netflix today, which predicted I would like it. I didn't. First, the pacing is painfully slow, with long stares by the characters which reveal little at best. Second, the boy, who is kept locked up for hours or days at a time, often in the dark, looks far healthier and well groomed than i would have expected. Third, there is no attempt to show how he managed to kidnap the boy, other than showing a failed attempt at getting a playmate (I assume for both of them). I didn't know that the director was associated with Michael Haneke, an art-house and critics favorite, but having seen "Funny Games", I can see why such a film as this might be made. That film was repellent, but at least in place of seeing the desired revenge, Haneke played a trick on the audience to intentionally deprive them of catharsis or satisfaction. This one does the same, but without any ploy. And don't be fooled into thinking we really learn much about what causes pedophilia. The film may look intellectual, but it only scratches the surface. It avoids cheap titillation, but replaces it with boredom and superficiality. Beware of the many positive reviews, as I am confident mainstream audiences will be totally turned off.
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