Michael (2011) Poster

(II) (2011)

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Tough to recommend, but very much a quality piece of work.
Spikeopath7 November 2014
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
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Outstanding and original piece of work.
reeceindie26 October 2011
This film is an incredible, original and totally unexpected piece of work. Given the subject matter audiences may assume that this would be pure exploitation or self-consciously 'dark' or 'edgy' but the film is full of ambiguity and subtlety and the director does an amazing job of keeping distant and matter-of-fact about the characters without leering or over-dramatics. Recently there have been a number of films which attempt (sometimes desperately) to be disturbing or provocative with degrees of explicitness , the originality of Michael is it's lack of explicitness or exploitation (if it was any other form of relationship it would be rated PG) which gives it a unique and unsettling tone. The film is full of little details and memorable moments which linger and is closed by an unexpected ending which moves from tense to calm then back to tense, all with a subtlety and pace alien to Hollywood.
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rooee21 August 2013
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.
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I feel a little sick and a lot disturbed.
The Backseat Director9 March 2012
I feel a little sick and a lot disturbed, but mostly, incredibly impressed.

I think when you buy a ticket for a film which has a pedophile for a protagonist, there's always that possibility that it might be a sympathetic portrayal; that beneath the monstrous outside, inside he's just a misunderstood kitten. I mean, surely, if ogres can be like onions, then pedophiles can be like physalis – a juicy centre fully enclosed in a large papery husk?

Well my Daily Mail reading readers, you can relax, Michael is anything but a sympathetic character – although, you may be disappointed that he has neither horns nor tail.

The complexities of the relationship between Michael and his 'houseguest' are fascinating, as it slowly dawns on you how easy it could be to manipulate a child into being a complicit captive, and exactly how many basements out there in fact have a missing child within?

So much of your ninety-four minutes of viewing 'pleasure' is consumed with such sobering and vile thoughts, while the rest is filled with some very dark humour indeed as there's nothing funnier than seeing a pedophile get stuck in the off-piste snow. Believe me, there isn't.

The film itself is flawless, and there are certain moments in and amongst its day-to-day mundanity that reveal themselves as a masterclass in subtle suspense.

This would happily sit right up there on your 'challenging' DVD shelf alongside Dogtooth – which is another fine film that reveals the worlds that people carve for themselves when the shutters come down and all that's left is you, the awkward man and his penis.
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A disturbing and well-made movie
Jen Brown10 December 2012
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.
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Froster5431 July 2013
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).
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Art House
gpeltz24 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
The film is Michael,(2011) Directed and written by Markus Schleinzer, I viewed it in it's original German, with Spanish subtitles. All this did not help me a bit in understanding what was going on. I watched it almost without words Everything was so low key The words were not missed. Spoiler Alert. This is a disturbing film, but it is well crafted and presented. It deals with a ten year old boy, Wolfgang, played by David Rauchenburger, held captive in the basement of Michael, an insurance adjuster, played by Michael Fuith.

Michael clearly considers himself a caring guardian, feeding the boy, providing books and entertainments, There is absolutely non of the more lurid aspects of child abuse depicted sexual or otherwise, although it is strongly inferred. The movie presents a sterile emotionless relationship, an off kilter version of "playing house" making believe the bolted door does not exist.

Wolfgang is a clever young lad, and knows what needs be done to survive his ordeal, he bides his time. Michael's life away from Wolfgang, consists of the day to day routines of going to work, being social at the office, and looking totally normal. The movie takes it's time. There are long cuts where the subjects are motionless. I had to check my system to see if it stalled out, as it sometimes does on you tube movies. No, it was shot with a casual regard for time or storytelling, and yet it held my attention (waiting for something to happen) Life steps in, The ending where we are to guess as to whether the boy lives or dies,is suppose to be ambiguous, but not in my book. An earnest and disturbing second film. I give it Eight out of ten "Art House" Stars. If you have a short attention span, skip it.
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A convincing portrait of evil as the absence of empathy
paul2001sw-14 January 2016
Loosely based on a horrific true story of an Austrian man who kept a girl in his cellar for the best part of two decades, 'Michael' is a film I avoided watching for a long time in part because I feared it would simply prove too unpleasant. In fact, it's watchable and (mostly) understated: its (fictional) villain less a pure monster, more just an isolated person who decides to set up their own life the way they want to, and to keep a child as one would keep a pet. Even then, his incapacity for emotion (towards the child, or indeed, for anybody else) is striking, which partly explains his appalling actions. I don't know how the details of this story reflect on the actual tale; but it seems a believable portrait of how someone could come to act in this way. The film is low budget: some of the scenes may be shot as they are to save filming them more expensively, although the advantage is that the audience is encouraged to concentrate on what matters, not some lush background. The ending is premature disappointing dramatically but what's more interesting is how much I cared to see what happened next: 'Michael' might not literally be docu-drama, but it convinces as a portrait of evil as the absence of empathy.
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A really bleak and sad film
Warning: Spoilers
"Michael" is a 95-minute film from Austria and as it was made in 2011, it has its 5th anniversary this year and of course it is in German language The writer and director is Markus Schleinzer, who is known for working as a casting on more than a few prestigious projects such as "Das weiße Band". And this film we have here is his only effort as writer and director so far, but honestly it really makes me (and audiences hope) that he will do more in the future as the man in charge behind the camera. It is the story of a man in his 30s who is a pedophile and locks a boy in his basement. But it is an entirely different work than "Room" for example. If you know a bit about Austrian film, you may recognize lead actor Michael Fuith or other cast members and you will also know that the films this country produces usually have very dark humor, but of course the subject here is not fitting at all for such an approach. It is a tragic movie, not a tragicomic one. Everybody who you see in here (or almost everybody) gives us a reason to feel sorry for him, most of all the title character who is a very sick and ill man and he is not doing what he does because of sadist reasons or anything but because he is a victim of his sexuality.

There was a moment here and there when I felt the film dragged and honestly I did not find too many of the supporting characters really interesting, but Schleinzer's vision and Fuith's performance make it very much worth checking out. This is a film that is bold and fearless for the most part and it is certainly quite a challenge to make a movie on a subject like this and still succeed in a way that I can describe it as I just did. I also felt that the run time of slightly over 90 minutes was fairly perfect, not too long, not too short and the makers definitely succeeded with the story they wanted to tell us. It was a very authentic watch and it almost felt like a documentary at times, even if we find out about the darkest secrets of course. I give "Michael" a thumbs-up and this film is for sure another example of how strong Austrian cinema is right now, actually has been for a long time. Go see it if you can deal with the difficult subject of the plot here. A rewarding watch for sure.
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Brilliant and heartbreaking
rioplaydrum25 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
There are perhaps two movies a year that keep me from breathing or blinking for and hour and a half, and I just found one of them.

'Michael' by Markus Schleinzer is a masterpiece and a testament to how the greatest of evil can hide in broad daylight.

Michael is smart and articulate. He is neat and clean. He irons his own shirts and maintains a house more sterile than a hospital. And he kidnaps young boys and locks them in his basement.

There are no graphic scenes of his sexual attacks on 10-year old Wolfgang, the poor little boy held prisoner in a sound-proof basement room (thank God), but the subtlety of how they are presented doesn't reduce the horror of it.

Of course we already know Michael is evil, the first scene of him carefully washing his precious penis in the bathroom sink after leaving Wolfgang's room filled me with rage.

In another, Michael reclines on Wolfgang's tiny bed and begins to lightly fondle himself and then quietly commands the boy who is already visibly cowering in the corner to 'come over'.

Michael orders Wolfgang around like a dog. He mostly speaks to the young lad with contempt, but does attempt at times to be friendly and fatherly. But even then it is disgustingly shallow.

Michael eventually promises Wolfgang a playmate as he installs a bunk bed in the room, and then we get to observe Michael 'on the hunt' for another boy at a go-cart rink. He finds one, but as they walk together to Michael's car, the boy's father shows up just in the nick of time.

This is the only sigh of relief you will get in this dreadful story.

After Michael dies suddenly in a car accident, the movie painfully plods through his funeral, and several days of Michael's otherwise loving family as they sort out the details of his house and property. At this point, his family has no idea of what a sicko he truly was. As far as they're concerned, Michael was an honorable and disciplined fellow of uncorrupted character and fine moral aptitude. A good man.

The depth of his deception among his people is mind-numbing and almost painful to behold.

During this whole time, Wolfgang is still locked in the dungeon! Nobody alive knows he's there! Does he have food? Is he starving to death? Is he screaming at the top of his lungs in desperation? The film purposely refuses to let us know.

This produced a level of suspense that I found almost too horrible to bear. My mind wanted to snap. The story will keep you on the edge of your seat for an evening and on your mind for days afterwards.

Viewer discretion is advised. No joke.
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an insurance clerk holds a ten year old boy captive in his basement
eyevacation4 June 2012
Warning: 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?
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A Coldly Observant Film with A Chilly, Amoral Protagonist
museumofdave17 February 2013
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.
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Possibly the most predictable ending to a film ever
stuartvanlinden9 June 2012
OK, that's a very accusatory title to put to a review of a film, but I don't think that I have ever been so sure about how a film would end than I was during the closing 20 minutes of "Michael". That is not to say that I don't think that the film should have ended the way that it did, it's just that I was so sure of what the final frames would consist of. I was absolutely spot on. "Michael" is a very well made film, for sure, but if you're expecting anything anywhere near as ambiguous or intelligent as even the weakest Haneke film, prepare for a disappointment. I do look forward to seeing what Markus Schleinzer does next as he clearly has a talent for directing films with a disturbing subject matter, but if he has a masterpiece within him, "Michael" certainly isn't it.

Decent film, but must try harder to achieve greatness.
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Review from another filmmaker
ynoel-26 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Having just seen the film 'Michael', what so say? For one, it is clear one has to try and see it from a purely objective point of view, and try to forget that this film reinstates stupid medieval superstitions about human child- eating monsters, and calls upon our most basic instincts: the instincts created by media that has us believe that dark lonely beings are the most immediate threat to our children - and not the parents that regularly kill about 300 times as much as any external criminals, or indeed simple cash crashes, that kill about 500 times as many per year. Watching this film felt like being taken for as exploitative ride about the death of children in car crashes. It was like watching a films about how smelly black people are, shown to a Mississippi white audience in the 1930's, or showing a film about the evil of Jews to a group of neo-Nazis. Superficial, false, and totally stereotypical. However, forgetting about this aspects, and being objective, what was the film like? It is well made, has artistic homogeneity, and has consistent mood creation. It also has good acting. Otherwise, trying to be objective still, the film was stupid, pointless, exploitative, highly pretentious, and predictable. (I also founds it shameful, but that is a personal idea). We are a long, long way from any masterpiece which being entered in competition in the Cannes festival supposes. (A quick look shows up that the director is a friend of Michael Heneke, the 'enfant chéri' of the Cannes film festival if there ever was one). The film is completely stupid... though I'm not sure I can explain that one so clearly. Like a stupid person, it goes nowhere, does nothing, and worst of all, thinks it is intelligent. Every human emotion in the film is another reason for censorship in this film, which consistently cuts before anything gets too explained or too 'deep', as though it were 'cool' or profound to do so. This, I imagine, for the director, would be called 'style', in actual fact it is just plain stupid. It is utterly pointless, because despite its desperate attempt to seem 'deep' about something, it says nothing at all or about individuals, about society, or anything else for that matter, other than the closed mind of an unlikely psychopath who tortures children and kills cats. And it doesn't even make the effort to try and explain the psychopath! Some watching the film may feel there is something going on beyond their understanding. There isn't. It is little more than an ego trip taken by the director down an emotionally exploitative route, having not found a better way to grasp people's attention than usual the most crass and cheap means: a perverted pedophile mentally and physically torturing his defenseless child victim over 90 minutes. It doesn't matter how much you cover the cheap and easy theme with pseudo 'style', it remains as exploitative of our basic instincts as making a film about 20 different ways of slowly ripping the wings off a butterfly. The pretentiousness, is, above every else, not to be believed. It can only be understood maybe by the fact this is the director's first film. It is a cold and distant style we have seen from German cinema for decades now, and much better done than him. No it is not 'cool' anymore to take such emotional distance from everything, it is stupid, and a waste of a film. The experiment is over, try something new. Maybe I watch too many films but from the very start I heard myself saying 'please don't let him use the grotesque image of him spending a lonely sad Christmas with the boy'. And ...he did! No, worse, he had then singing carols! Please don't let this become a 'vengeance' story, and it did! (it was simply a basic story of how the boy took revenge on the evil man in the end). Well, that and about 10 other predictable events. From about half way through I knew he would finish the film JUST as his crimes are discovered, and leave us dangling. I just didn't know if he would be alive at that time, or if he died in a car crash. That ending the director might call 'mysterious', or something deep the audience should think about for weeks after seeing the film, when in actual fact it is simply ...stupid. But this film fits in well into such festivals. It is well made. That is enough to put any friends of yours in the biggest festival in the world. There are PLENTY, I mean plenty of much worse films than this one that take an incomprehensible precedence over others. That's how fickle the market is.
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Artsy Pedophile Film Bores Rather Than Informs
drpakmanrains24 July 2014
Warning: 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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disturbing but i'm glad i watched this movie
boneyfido21 December 2012
Warning: 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.
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Unwatchble sick film
mcdegg18 November 2012
I was reluctant about this movie,it's a very hard subject to make a movie about...and i was right,this movie is sick and people who liked it are sick too.

I skipped most of it because it disgusted me and I'm sure it will disgust you.

Don't even try to watch it,you'll for sure regret it.

What kind of a movie tryes to make the viewers emphatyze with a pedophile??

The people involved on this should be ashamed and not allowed to work in another movie ever again!
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Extremely disturbing
dianataylorlondon17 September 2014
Warning: 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 shouldn't watch.

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...
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