Thursday, March 7, 2013

A review of "Michael"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “Michael”
By: Brian Cotnoir

I once heard another film critic say that “[‘Michael’] is going to be the next ‘[A] Serbian Film”. Those who read my review of “A Serbian Film” know that I thought the movie was well made, and I went into detail about the scenes of graphic violence throughout the film.  I didn’t find the film really to be all that shocking, but I know many people who do and shutter in fear at the mere mention of the film’s title.  So my morbid curiosity was more than enough to motivate me to sit through the 2011 film “Michael” and see whether or not it was as shocking—or worst than—“A Serbian Film”. I’ve reached two conclusions: Either everyone who saw this film is just a total wuss or I have become completely desensitized to everything.
    The film tells the story of an insurance salesman named Michael who on the outside seems like a quite, harmless, reclusive man who keeps to himself and doesn’t really like to be bothered with other people.  However, Michael has a dark secret. In his home—which is heavily fortified—he keeps a young boy hostage as a sex slave.  Michael keeps the boy locked up all day in a secret room in his basement and only lets him out at night to have dinner with him and watch television.  The film mostly focuses on the difficulties and steps Michael takes to insure that no one finds out about the boy, and how he tries give the boy a normal life and how he makes himself seem like he’s a normal man.   
   This film is absolutely nothing like “A Serbian Film”.  Not once in the film do they ever show Michael sexually abusing the boy.  It is implied in the film that the boy was kidnapped and that Michael keeps him locked up as his sex slave, but it is never fully established that that is the case and, in my opinion, the story is open up to many different interpretations.  Since it is only implied that Michael keeps the boy as a sex slave the graphicness of the scenes of abuse are open to minds of viewer of the film.  I didn’t find the implications to be particularly shocking, and therefore I never felt like the boy was any real danger.  There’s a scene where we see Michael take the boy on an outdoor outing where there are other people around and at no point does the boy try to run away or inform someone else to say that he’s been kidnapped or that he is in danger.  Also, the young boy in the film doesn’t appear to be bothered by the abuse at all.  I don’t want to sound offensive—I may be totally off on this assumption—and I apologize if this statement offends anyone: but is the boy’s character in the film supposed to be Autistic?  His character kind of shows some symptoms, but I don’t really know.  He acts like it’s just another part of his daily routine in the film and we rarely see him speak or break from a bleak monotone expression. The seriousness and severity of his situation just sort of goes away.                        
This film's better than "Michael"; see it.
    I’ll break it down for you like this: there’s a Norwegian film I saw called “The King of Devils Island” and part of the story deals with one of the young boys being sexually abused by one of the schools disciplinarians.  Even though there are no scenes in the “King of Devils Island” that depict the boy being sexually assaulted by the disciplinarian the boy expresses fear and panic every time the disciplinarian is near and we even get a few scenes of him crying after leaving the disciplinarians private room.  Now compare that to the boy in “Michael” who just seems to shrug it off like it’s not that big of a deal. To me Michael comes more off as an over-protective parent in the film rather than as a sadistic pedophile, and that annoys me.  The film shows Michael in a way that almost makes him seem nurturing and caring, but he’s a God d@mn pedophile; we’re not supposed to like him or see him portrayed as a human being. He’s so calm and well-mannered and he doesn’t even yell at the boy.      
    Another problem with this film is there is not a lot of dialogue spoken in this film. The film depends on a lot of atmosphere in the film to establish the tone of the film, and I think that just makes things more confusing for the people watching the film.  The atmosphere in this film is good, but it just leaves you sitting there with so many questions.  Most of the notes I took while watching the film were questions that I had about the story.  I actually had to look up a lot of things about this film so I could try to understand the story better.  For each question I had answered about something that went on in the film “Michael” there was about five other questions that went unanswered.                                              
This is Michael
This film is terrible at establishing plot and characters.  I’m going to be honest I thought that Michael was the name of the young boy, not the adult.  The boy’s name is actually Wolfgang (according to IMDB), but I don’t recall his name ever being mentioned at any point in the film.  Even Michael, the first time I heard someone call him by his first name in the film was about 2/3 of the way through the film.  They really should have chosen some better ways to introduce the characters.    
    Another problem I had with this film was that the editing was very choppy.  There are countless scenes in the film that last 5-10 seconds that really don’t have any relevance to the plot and then jump to another scene.  The style of filmmaking that the film’s director, Markus Schleinzer, used was very similar to the same style of film making used by Danish film director Lars Von Trier.  There’s a lot of scene jumping, no music, and lots of random scenes that don’t seem to go anywhere or hold any importance to the plot.                                 
Michael tries to lure another potential victim
The only actually “shocking” scene I found in the film was when they were having dinner and then Michael stood up whipped out his penis and pointed a knife at the boy and said “This is my dick, and this is my knife; which one should I stick in you?” (To which the boy replied nonchalantly “the knife”).  The film does have a few good scenes to add to its story.  There’s a part in the film where Michael tries to abduct another young boy so the other boy can have a playmate (and more likely so he can have another boy to abuse).  There’s another part where Michael goes on ski vacation with some friends so he just locks the boy up with extra food for a week and hopes for the best.  There’s even a part where Michael tries to have sex with a woman, and it was just really funny.                            
    Whether or not this film is good is totally up to you.  This is definitely one of those films where you are going to have to see it yourself and form your own opinion.  It’s not a bad film, but it’s far from being great film.  Is it controversial and shocking? I don’t think so. I found it to be mostly confusing so I didn’t really care much for it, but I can also understand why someone might actually think this is a good film.  If you want more details then just watch the film “Michael” yourself, and let me know what you think about it.  It is filmed in German, so you’re probably going to have to watch it with subtitles on (unless you already speak German, of course).  

A trailer that's almost as boring as the film

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