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A drama focused on five months in the life of pedophile who keeps a 10-year-old boy locked in his basement.
For more about Michael and the Michael Blu-ray release, see the Michael Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on July 8, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Michael Fuith, David Rauchenberger, Christine Kain, Ursula Strauss, Victor Tremmel
Director: Markus Schleinzer
» See full cast & crew
Michael Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 8, 2012
Nominated for the prestigious Palme d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival and winner of Vienna Film Award for Best Feature at the Viennale, Markus Schleinzer's directorial debut "Michael" (2011) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer and a video interview with the Austrian director. In German, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
The main protagonist (Michael Fuith) in Markus Schleinzer's directorial debut, Michael, is a quiet and intelligent man. He dresses well, drives a nice car and lives in a large and clean house. At work he is kind and polite with his colleagues. His bosses like his efficiency and professionalism. He appears to be a normal man.
But a few glimpses from the man's private life quickly kill the idea that he is - Michael is a pedophile who keeps an abducted young boy (David Rauchenberger) locked in his basement. He occasionally lets the boy out and the two have dinner together, like a father and son would, but there is always tension between the two.
During a rare trip to the countryside, the boy gets seriously sick. Unable to take him to the doctor, the man decides to drive to a nearby pharmacy, but gets hit by a car, and then hospitalized. For days the sick boy remains locked in the basement. Then, after the man returns home from the hospital, things suddenly spiral out of control.
Michael is a very well done film, but next to impossible to like. There is a sense of realism in it that is very disturbing - but not because the film is graphic. It is disturbing because the main protagonist isn't demonized. He is an ordinary man perfectly aware of his actions, not a psychopath driven by his instincts. Everything he does is well calculated and serves a specific purpose.
The film does not try to get inside the man's head either. It simply observes what takes place between him and the boy. The only time when the camera moves away from the two is when something terrible is about to happen.
Michael is the directorial debut of Markus Schleinzer, Michael Haneke's longtime casting director. It is a slow and quite moody film which does remind about Haneke's work, specifically as far as the camerawork is concerned. There are plenty of long static shots and more often than not the camera is left observing the two protagonists from afar. As it is the case with many of Haneke's best films, silence also has an important role.
Fuith is fantastic. Some of the very best sequences in the film are the ones where the camera studies his eyes. It is difficult to tell precisely why, but only during these sequences one could tell that he is a monster. There is something evil in these eyes. His body language is normal. The few lines he utters here and there are also ordinary.
The young boy's performance is incredibly brave. There is one sequence, in particular, that must have required the approval of his parents. Fortunately, Schleinzer keeps everything under control, leaving the worst to the viewer's imagination.
Cinematographer Martin Gschlacht deserves a lot of credit. The often suffocating sense of danger that permeates the entire film is directly related to his excellent lensing. (Gschlacht also lensed Gotz Spielmann's equally impressive Austrian thriller Revanche).
Note: In 2011, Michael was nominated for the prestigious Palme d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Also in 2011, the film won Vienna Film Award for Best Feature at the Viennale.
Michael Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Markus Schleinzer's Michael arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye.
The presentation is very impressive. Detail is striking throughout the entire film. Clarity is also very pleasing, even when light is restricted (see screencapture #7). The daylight footage from the mountain trip is so crisp that selected shots look like digital pictures. Colors are rich, stable and natural. Contrast levels are well balanced, with even the brightest scenes boasting a strong organic look. There is one sequence where I noticed light banding sneaking in, but the rest of the high-definition transfer is indeed flawless. Lastly, there are no serious compression issues. All in all, this is yet another very solid presentation of an award-winning contemporary film from Artificial Eye. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Michael Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: German LPCM 2.0 and German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Artificial Eye have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
Michael is primarily a dialog-driven film. However, during key sequences, such as the one with the car crash, the German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 opens up the film very well. There are various subtle effects that add a great deal to the already very tense atmosphere. The dialog is always crisp, clean, and stable, and there are no distortions and audio dropouts. The English translation is outstanding.
Michael Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Michael Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Markus Schleinzer's directorial debut is an enormously brave and truly fascinating character study of a pedophile that made me feel very uncomfortable. I applaud it, but I must admit that this is the type of realistic cinema that could create some very polarizing opinions. Fans of Michael Haneke and Gotz Spielmann's work shouldn't miss it. The technical presentation is excellent. Kudos to Artificial Eye for bringing to Blu-ray yet another important contemporary film. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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