After a dash of whimsy with “The Future”, it was time to head back into the world of dark themes with “Michael”. At the start of the film we witness a young boy probably around the age of ten. He is a lucky boy, his dad loves him very much, he is always playing games with him, having snowball fights, doing puzzles together, watching a spot of television together, his father even reads books to the boy each night before bedtime. The boy is well fed, clothed well, but he has his fair share of chores to do too. He must help with the dishes, clean the toilet, even help with the sweeping, but these are normal things for a boy growing up. However this boy’s life is anything but normal, and he isn’t lucky in the slightest. Sure all of the above describes part of this boy’s life, but what I haven’t mentioned is that he is also a prisoner. This boy is a prisoner of a pedophile named Michael, who has him locked downstairs in his basement in a special makeshift room complete with soundproofing. Oh, one more thing, Michael isn’t the boy’s father, he is his kidnapper and while it may looks like he takes good care of the boy, whenever the moment takes hold of him, Michael will go downstairs and sodomize this poor boy.
While this is a major part of the film, we also see what Michael is like away from his home. Sure he is a little strange, he is very shy, keeps to himself at work, but when we see him out with his friends, he comes across as very normal. From a work perspective, he is very successful and even gets a big promotion during the film. However back at home, he is a monster, meticulous in his attempts at never getting caught or letting the boy escape. He thinks everything out to the nth degree.
While the film doesn’t sound like fun (which it isn’t), it is actually a very good film. With the exception of one scene (which I believe should have been shot in a different manner), I felt the topic of pedophilia was treated with respect, and never felt exploitative. It is incredibly confronting and sad, and there are parts of it that will have you feeling very angry, but this portrait of a damaged and sick mind is incredibly well done.
The lead performance from Michael Fuith as Michael is sensational (he has an incredibly likeness to Buster from “Arrested Development”) and it takes a brave actor to take on a role like this. He barely speaks throughout most of the film, but we learn so much about him from his actions. There are times when Michael himself reverts to a child, which is quite off-putting, as he plays with the boy, and you can tell in these moments that he has no idea just how immoral the situation is (I’m specifically thinking of the snowball fight the two have). Another chilling scene is when Michael goes in search of another victim at a go-kart circuit and his whole calm methodology he uses.
Overall, although the film deals with a lot of heavy and unpleasant themes, because of the respect and restraint shown by director Marcus Schleinzer, I found “Michael” to be a very worthwhile experience. It is extremely powerful and quite heartbreaking. During that final shot, without giving the ending away, I felt so sorry for the poor mother.