The main character of Michael (Michael Fuith), is clearly seeking a normal life, but keeping a 10 yr old boy trapped in his basement, is anything but normal.
There is no doubt that the subject matter is disturbing, but Austrian director, Markus Schleinzer, does a good job offering the viewer a story full of suspense and subtle humour.
Unlike other movies that deal with topics of this nature, the film’s focus is not on the actual exploitative acts or their violence, instead the film tends to focus more on the story of Michael.
The viewer gets an inside look into his life; at work and at home. Michael prefers to remain distant from his own family. Refusing the invitation to spend Christmas with them, reminding them how he likes to spend Christmas alone.
The display of the interactions between the man and boy echo typical family dynamics. Eating dinner together, taking the boy out to the park, and even exchanging gifts on Christmas. It seems as if Michael just yearns to be a big kid. The boy provides that companionship he needs, asking him to play jigsaw puzzle or watch TV, in addition to other more sadistic requests.
Apart from those interactions, Michael also keeps the boy in the basement and turns off the lights whenever he pleases. It’s disgusting and atrocious to say the least but the film’s story does bring attention to the issues of exploitation and missing children.
A compelling performance by Michael Fuith, the character of Michael was well developed and believable. However, it’s hard to say the same for that of the 10 year old boy. The boy seemed complacent in his current situation, never trying to escape or fight back making it seem less real. There was also no explanation on where he was from or any of his back story at all.
The debut film for director Markus Schleinzer, the film provocatively questions the definition of ‘monstrous’ and his images often have a double meaning taking a few moments for them to sink in. If one can look beyond the disturbing subject matter to the film itself, it will be sure to reel you in with its strong lead performance, creepy ordinary detail and suspenseful twists.
Michael was a film entry in the Cinema of Time category at the 2011 Vancouver International Film Festival.