Michael Review

The Film

Anders Brevik worked in customer services, Jeffrey Dahmer had a job in a chocolate factory, and "Son of Sam" was a postman. That they all performed monstrous unspeakable acts is also true, but the fact remains that they got up every day like you and I, and paid for their dinner by selling their own labour. They lived in houses like you and I, they visited the supermarket like you and I. Viewed from a distance and not forgetting all the horror they inflicted, they appeared just as normal as you and I.imageMichael is in line for a promotion at the insurance firm he works for. He is looking forward to a skiing holiday with friends and his nice home and nice job are evidence of a model citizen. Yet in his basement, in a specially designed locked room, lives Wolfgang, a 10 year old boy whom he lets out for meals and to watch TV, but mostly joins before he goes to bed to do something you wouldn't want to be shown. For all of their faux domestic life, Wolfgang is enslaved, despoiled and robbed of his childhood.

Courtesy of a matter of fact objectivity, and a discretion that is thankfully sparing of the worst of Michael's evils, the veneer of this salaryman's life is peeled away. Michael's mum and sister are told lies of a girlfriend in Germany, his colleagues are kept thoroughly at arm's length and his depravity is only revealed to us, the viewer.imageThe unaffected, pared down delivery of the facts of the story is only occasionally threatened by Wolfgang's illness, a nosey colleague and impotent flirtation with Michael's dominance basically re-established. Wolfgang in turn moves from victim to old before his time to disturbed and vengeful as the evil of Michael scars the child.

The most disturbing elements of director Schleinzer's film are those that are most prosaic and mundane. The despicable plans of Michael as he looks to develop a spare Wolfgang or the sick jokes he tries to perpetrate at the dinner table after seeing them on twisted pornography. The more commonplace the locations, the more documentary the presentation, the worse the situation we witness is.imageNow the story of a pedophile and his victim, you could argue, shouldn't be shown as everyday but the choice to do this makes the impact far worse. This is evil hidden in plain sight, crimes committed by someone who may be your neighbour, your colleague or your friend and deeply unnerving for it.

Schleinzer's debut has drawn comparisons with his countryman Haneke, and Michael is every bit as powerful for its clinical approach as the likes of 71 Fragments of a Chronicle of Chance. A distressing subject filmed in a way that means we can never again feel too safe that monsters live in a world all that different from our own.

Tech Specs

Michael is given a dual layer region 2 coded disc and the quality of the transfer is sympathetically good. The documentary like presentation is adhered to with muted colours, a lack of edge enhancement or obvious filtering, and solid contrast.imageThere are two audio options with a decent stereo mix perfectly good enough, but my preference going to the 5.1 mix which offers great atmosphere when in the scenes in the car or in the basement and uses the subwoofer channel effectively in this respect. The English subtitles cover main dialogue but are not slavish in translating everything we hear, such as TV or radio.

Extras

An interview with the director, conducted in English, is included along with the trailer for the film. Schleinzer talks about his ambition to direct a film before he was forty, his research into the behaviours of his characters, and his difficulties in casting. His responsibility in casting and directing Wolfgang and his obvious integrity with respect to making clear the subject matter to a young person is most welcome.

Summary

A truly gruelling film about a difficult subject pays off for the serious viewer, Artificial Eye's DVD release is solid if light on extras.

Film
8 out of 10
Video
7 out of 10
Audio
7 out of 10
Extras
3 out of 10
Overall

7

out of 10

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