CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 18
  • Drama
  • 2011

Michael

Michael

Synopsis

A sobering study of the daily routines of an Austrian paedophile who keeps a 10-year-old boy imprisoned in his basement. From first-time director Markus Schleinzer.

About

Poor The Austrian Tourist Board. They're really not going to be happy with this one. But if Michael Schleinzer hadn't made this film about a seemingly normal insurance clerk who keeps a young boy enslaved in his basement, then it would only have been a matter of time before somebody else did.

Needless to say, this is a sensitive subject. And Schleinzer's stint as casting director on Haneke's The White Ribbon no doubt served him well when it came to choosing a young actor who could handle the difficult role of the incarcerated boy. He chose well - despite his tender years, newcomer David Rauchenberger expertly negotiates the line between childish neediness and resentful defiance.

But this film is really about Michael, the paedophile who has been holding the boy captive for God knows how long (we can only infer that it's been at least three Christmases). It's also about the mundanity of 'evil' when you study it up close, going about its day to day business. The whole film is drenched in banal beiges and oranges as Michael and his prisoner eat dinner together, do the washing up, watch telly and assemble jigsaw puzzles. At times, they seem almost like father and son. Which is why it's all the more harrowing when the full extent of their relationship is made clear. We never see this explicitly, but by keeping the most extreme abuse off-screen, Schleinzer leaves our imaginations to work their worst - a disturbing but effective trick he may have picked up from Haneke.

A handful of too-convenient plot-driving coincidences sap the film of some of its plausibility. But there's also a thornier problem. Schleinzer goes so far out of his way to be unsensational and matter-of-fact about his subject that it's hard to see what point he's trying to make. "A society can only develop to the same extent that it is able to get to grips with its offenders," he says. Fair enough. But if the intent of the film is to promote understanding of paedophillia with a view to preventing it, perhaps we need to examine the causes as well as the consequences.

In a nutshell

A brave, unavoidably distressing debut from Markus Schleinzer, sensitively acted and directed. But if you're going to make an analytical film about paedophilia, you need to say more than just "these things happen".

by Rebecca Davies

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4 Million Dollar Arm

    Million Dollar Arm

    Struggling sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) has the idea to launch a reality TV contest in India that offers contestants the chance to land a Major League Baseball contract

  • Film4

    Let's Be Cops

    Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. star in a buddy cop-impersonator comedy

  • Film4 Half Nelson

    Half Nelson on Film4

    Ryan Gosling stars as an inner-city high school teacher struggling with a drug problem in Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden's Oscar-nominated drama on Film4

  • Film4 Rust and Bone

    Rust And Bone on Film4

    Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts star in Jacques Audiard's romantic drama on Film4

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share