out of Five
Running time: 96
Impressively directed and superbly written, this is a powerful and chilling drama with a terrific central performance from Michael Fuith.
What's it all about?
Directed by Markus Schleinzer (Michael Haneke's longtime casting director), Michael stars Michael Fuith as Michael, a nerdy insurance office worker who's keeping an abducted young boy (David Rauchenberger as Wolfgang) locked up in his basement. While keeping both his family members and co-workers at an emotional distance, Michael nonetheless attempts to create something of a home life for Wolfgang, ensuring that they eat meals together and even taking him on day trips, despite the regular sexual abuse. However, when Wolfgang gets sick, Michael is unable to take him to the doctor and things take a dramatic turn when Michael is then hit by a car after a visit to the pharmacy and wakes up in hospital.
Michael Fuith is terrific as Michael, delivering a gripping performance that is, disturbingly, almost likeable, in his bumbling attempts to do the right thing, despite the horrific wrong at the story's centre. David Rauchenberger is equally good as Wolfgang and their relationship is both complex and extremely well observed, while there's strong support from Gisela Salcher as a flirty co-worker who seems to be interested in Michael.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given their close working connection, there are strong echoes of Michael Haneke's films here, not least in the way Schleinzer presents the events on screen in a chilling, matter-of-fact manner, while refusing to sensationalise (the abuse all takes place off-screen, either out of shot or hinted at with shots such as Michael washing his genitals in the sink). The film is also impressively shot, with stark, brightly lit cinematography courtesy of Gerald Kerkletz.
By refusing to demonise Michael (he's less of a monster, more a lonely, severely emotionally damaged nerd), the film feels hauntingly realistic and the effect is extremely powerful. In addition, Schleinzer delivers a couple of genuine shocks and pulls off an impressive third act that is both unexpected and heart-stoppingly suspenseful. Great final shot, too.
Michael is a haunting and powerfully disturbing drama with a superb script and a terrific central performance from Michael Fuith. Recommended.