Sunday, 15 May 2011
CANNES 2011 - Michael
Michael (2011) dir. by Markus Schleinzer
Starring Michael Fuith and David Rauchenberger
By Blair Stewart
The man is a blank.
Balding, pasty, forgettable. Bland suit, bland shoes, bland words. He arrives home from the insurance office, removes the bland suit and shoes, makes a snack, goes downstairs to his padlocked basement, into the playroom of the 10-year-old boy he's held captive for months, and he rapes the boy. That's his routine.
This is the reality of Michael, Markus Schleinzer's debut feature after cutting his teeth as a casting director, most notably for Michael Haneke. His influence hangs over so many of the art-house releases these days, he's like a trend instead of an auteur. Michael deals with the outrage of the Josef Fritzl revelation and other cases of child enslavement within our generation.
Michael Fuith is Michael the adult, an obsequious middle-manager type of deep silence, hard-wired as a sexual predator, matter-of-fact and mostly competent in his crime. David Rauchberger is the boy, required to engage Michael in sex, expected to play the role of a playmate and chattel. The film shifts between the man's outside existence and his casual trips down to the basement, absolute evil reduced to banality. The scenes of molestation are mostly implied but brutal to fathom, even if you're not a parent. The film doesn't insist exploitation or controversy, it confronts an aspect of human nature that's existed since the catamites; it could occur, and has already, in small-town Austria, Afghanistan, California.
As a film, in regard to design, Michael is accomplished but unspectacular and quite predictable. But to be fair, if the story was sensationalized, I'd be furious – Schleinzer has made a mostly honest film from an unfathomable source. It does pander though in having Michael as a vacant monster, Todd Solondz was much braver in humanizing Dylan Baker's paedophile in Happiness. Fuith and Rauchberger are committed in their roles and commendable in their bravery. Michael is a film of great unease that I don't want to watch again, but it’s worth respecting.
"But I... I can't help myself! I have no control over this, this evil thing inside of me, the fire, the voices, the torment!"
-Peter Lorre in Fritz Lang's M.