Markus Schleinzer – 18 -96 mins
They say every man’s house is his castle. For middle-aged Michael, his is his dungeon. Leading a banal existence in a non-descript Austrian town, this man’s darkest secret lies in his cellar – a living space for the young boy he keeps prisoner.
Michael is a horrifying exercise in voyeurism, exploring the seemingly harmless routine of the man’s day-to-day life with unflinching objectivity. It is unrelenting in its hold over you. Nevertheless, this film is much more than a slowly paced trudge through the life of a monster. Some moments can get an entire audience to jump out of their seats in shock; others cause ripples of laughter during darkly comic scenes, mostly at the protagonist’s expense.
Michael Fuith’s portrayal of the protagonist is highly nuanced, his cold stare hiding a myriad of emotions which occasionally burst forth in violent tantrums or moments of solitary despair. Young actor David Rauchenberger is astonishing as the captive. The film’s look at this pair’s relationship raises a number of interesting questions. Is the paedophile’s desire to be close to this child the result of some twisted form of love? And is his inability to interact normally with people of his own age the result of his own infantile mentality? He is at once man, monster and mother, as dependent on the boy as that helpless prisoner is on him. At times, Schleinzer’s direction may have you wondering whether this character is, on some level, to be pitied. But a chilling scene which reveals how he might snare his next victim drives home just how dangerous and despicable he is.
No moment of Michael is gratuitous, and its denouement is quite superb. Just be prepared for the full horror of it.