Movie Review - Michael (2012)

Filmmaker Markus Schleinzer was a casting director from Vienna, Austria. He's best known for working on Michael Haneke's films. Haneke is the creator of Funny Games (1997) and The White Ribbon (2009), a Palme d'Or winner and Oscar nominee for Best Foreign-Language Film. Funny Games was a subversive horror film, while The White Ribbon was a drama that had horror elements. All of Haneke's films have horror elements with the exception of The Piano Teacher, which was more of a character study. Schleinzer's film learns from those Haneke movies. Michael is a character study with horror elements. The only thing Schleinzer lacks is Haneke's visual panache.

Schleinzer isn't the first filmmaker that could be compared to Haneke. The Oscar-nominated film from Greece, Giorgos Lanthimos' Dogtooth (2009) had a lot of the same tone and style. In Dogtooth, the whole thing takes place in a house and the children aren't allowed to leave. Aside from a few scenes, the majority of Michael takes place in a house and instead of children, there's just one child and he isn't allowed to leave either but with one exception.

The child is a 10-year-old boy named Wolfgang. The man holding him hostage is Michael, a man in his mid-thirties, maybe older. Michael is an office worker by day but while at the job Michael keeps Wolfgang locked in a fully-furnished basement. The basement is sound proof and has a special bar lock that can't be easily broken. Michael lets Wolfgang upstairs but only if Michael is there and only after Michael has fully shuttered the windows, which run electronically, so clearly this is a guy who put some thought into his hostage taking.

There have been famous cases of child kidnappings like Jaycee Dugard, Shawn Hornbeck and Elizabeth Smart. I'm not sure anyone wonders as to what the day-to-day experiences of those young hostages were, but Schleinzer unfurls it for us here. A lot of what we see is extremely mundane. Michael has dinner. He brushes his teeth. He goes into the basement and colors with Wolfgang as well as helps him put together puzzle pieces.

All of it would seem boring if Schleinzer didn't constantly remind us that we like Wolfgang are in the hands of a pedophile. It's the creepiest movie-going time that you'll ever have. It is the most awkward thing ever, but still strangely thrilling. The logistics become so important, the routine, because questions arise about how long this situation can possibly continue. How will it conclude?

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Recommended for Mature Audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 36 mins.

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