By Don Simpson | February 18, 2012
Director: Markus Schleinzer
Writer: Markus Schleinzer
Starring: Michael Fuith, David Rauchenberger, Christine Kain, Ursula Strauss, Victor Tremmel, Xaver Winkler, Thomas Pfalzmann, Gisela Salcher, Isolde Wagner, Markus Hochholdinger, Susanne Rachler, David Oberkogler, Katrin Thurm, Martin Schwehla, Olivier Beaurepaire, Samy Goldberger, Martina Poel, Mika Sakurai, Paul Karall, Helga Karall, Gertraud Ball, Sarah Forstner
Not to be confused with the Nora Ephron film starring John Travolta, Austrian writer-director Markus Schleinzer’s Michael is an everyday portrait of a pedophile. (Yes, you read that correctly.) A very average-looking thirtysomething, Michael (Michael Fuith) spends his mundane days working in an insurance office. Then, when he arrives home after work, Michael closes the shutters of his windows nice and tight and heads down to the basement to visit Wolfgang (David Rauchenberger), the 10-year-old boy whom he keeps locked up down there. Michael and Wolfgang have dinner, wash dishes, watch movies and play games; then Michael ushers Wolfgang back to the basement and locks him up again.
Michael plays the role of Wolfgang’s caregiver and provider, making us believe that he likes Wolfgang for more that just sex. There are a few allusions to Michael using Wolfgang for sex, but Schleinzer’s film never actually shows anything. (Thankfully!) It is one of many cinematic tactics that Schleinzer utilizes to keep the possibility of the audience actually coming around to sympathizing with Michael alive.
Schleinzer makes Michael’s disturbing sexual deviancy seem surprisingly normal. Except for one scene, Michael never becomes the stereotypical, creepy and deranged pedophile that Hollywood has consistently revealed to us. (Mind the pun.) Instead, Michael is all about keeping up the appearances of a banal, middle-class, suburban existence. He is a model employee at work, keeps his home impeccably tidy and clean, maintains regular contact with his sister and mother, goes on a ski trip with some buddies…
In other words, Michael is a normal guy whom you would never suspect of jaywalking let alone pedophilia — and that right there just makes him so much more frightening. I would not recommend that anyone with young children watch Michael, not just because of the nightmarish subject matter, but also due to the cool, calm and collected portrayal of this truly horrible and despicable human being. That said — if you think you can stomach the subject matter and also have the patience for a slowly plodded and subdued narrative, then Michael might just strike you as a brilliantly creepy character study.