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Naseeruddin Shah, Mahi Gill, Purav Bhandare, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Irawati Harshe Mayadev ... see more see more... , Michael Fuith , David Rauchenberger , Christine Kain , Viktor Tremmel , Ursula Strauss , Xaver Winkler , Gisella Salcher , Simon Jaritz , Florian Eisner , Margot Vuga

Michael (Michael Fuith), a seemingly meek insurance agent, has a secret: he's holding 10-year-old Wolfgang (David Rauchenberger) captive in a locked room in his basement. Chronicling a five month peri... read more read more...od, director Markus Schleinzer reveals a tense portrait of how seemingly mundane lives can hide the darkest secrets. Michael is a masterfully executed study of a monster with rich cinematic detail and unnerving insight. -- (C) Strand

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2,058 ratings

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81% liked it

37 critics

Unrated, 1 hr. 38 min.

Directed by: Markus Schleinzer

Release Date: February 15, 2012

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DVD Release Date: May 15, 2012

Stats: 104 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (104)


  • June 3, 2012
    A deeply disturbing character study that takes on the hard task of humanizing a monstrous psycopath, focusing on a three-dimensional human predator who can blend into society like many others - but wisely never offering easy reasons for his repulsive actions.
  • January 19, 2014
    The central lesson of the movie "Michael" is that if you think there is something wrong with the mild-mannered, accident-prone, eyeglass-wearing, balding man who eats lunch alone everyday but still remains something of a magnet for lonely middle-aged women, then you are absolutel... read morey right.

    In the case of Michael(Michael Fuith), who works in an insurance office, it is that he is a pedophile, having kidnapped Wolfgang(David Rauchenberger) who he keeps in his soundproofed basement, except for the one time when he takes him on an outing with him because apparently people care more about their lost pets than sexual predators.

    And that's pretty much it, as the movie goes along in its own matter of fact and low key way, not even taking advantage of Michael's hospital stay to raise the suspense level at all. For the record, I generally respect unconventional storytelling but one should try to aim higher than a prolonged shaggy dog joke.
  • August 26, 2012
    ***1/2 out of ****

    Michael (Michael Fuith) is a shy little man who works a competent job and seems to live a competent life with a competently spacy home and a competent body. In the eyes of pretty much any German citizen, he'd be a pretty decent working class male. He's not p... read morearticularly social but his behavior doesn't appear destructive. This is what Michael appears to be on the outside; just an average Joe. But as we see him return home on the night that the film begins, we witness the opening and closing of the fateful blue safe-like door in the basement; which conceals a small room behind it in which a young boy named Wolfgang (David Rauchenberger) is being held captive.

    Michael only lets Wolfgang out of his room between meals and occasionally to watch some evening television. Afterwards, he'll take the kid back to his room, close the metal door, and rape him. Michael is a meek gentleman on the outside and a pedophile monster on the inside. But nobody has to know this. The child has been his worst kept secret for what feels like a while now. But then again people don't usually come by his place often anyways. He's broken off most contact with the outside world for the mere satisfaction of his confused penis. I can totally understand the guy.

    At times, Markus Schleinzer's "Michael" borders on being exploitative. While the disturbing acts that are the film's central themes are shown mostly off-screen, it also lacks the finger-wagging moralism of most Hollywood pictures covering the topic of pedophilia although I think that is precisely why it is so effective, haunting, and horrifying. Most people will not think twice before writing Michael off as just another monster who needs to be locked away from society (even though he essentially does that on his own); while some, like myself, will view the film as a chance to see things from his point of view. We aren't supposed to sympathize with his problems, which aren't even presented as problems, but I think it's better off that way.

    The relationship between Michael and Wolfgang is strange and disturbing. Sometimes by day, Michael will take the boy out to the park or something like that; he's convinced the child that his parents don't want him back and that it's basically useless to run at this point, so Wolfgang puts up with everything that he has to go through. There are almost distressingly tender scenes in which these two clean together, play games together, and are able to uphold awkward yet decent conversations; while we also see them at their worst, in some truly brutal and uncompromising scenes. The film is sad, tragic, and real all at the same time; and it creeps up on you in such an unexpected way that it imprints images and concepts in your mind that won't soon leave.

    I love movies like this. Movies that refuse to conform to clichés or common stylistics. Films that have the bravery to exist on their own terms and according to their own rules. "Michael" achieves an impeccable sense of unease through a minimalist style and the brave, dedicated performances of both Michael Fuith and David Rauchenberger. The film is probably going to upset a lot of people with its grit and realism; there is an element of dark humor that will probably come off as particularly off-putting. But if you want a movie that doesn't sugarcoat the truth and doesn't try to shallowly moralize it, then you've found it. In a review, I'm supposed to recommend the movie for a certain audience. I think with a fantastic and creepy film such as this, the only audience that I can recommend it to is the one that's most like me. Conventional movie-goers be damned; for this is not a conventional movie, and it's not afraid to cross a few lines. It's exploitation with artistic purpose.
  • fb1364753347
    May 26, 2012
    fb1364753347
    The premise for this film is more fascinating than the film itself. It is well directed and really well acted but it delves no deeper than the shallow end in any of the characters or themes. Everytime you think the film will take a dive in the deep end, it quickly paddles back to... read more the simple idea of the guy with a kid in the basement. The premise is such a complex issue but there is no exploration, just bland presentation. Because of this the minimalist, realist style does not work because the beauty of minimalism is that while you are watching a scene that raises subtle themes your brain is de-constructing the themes from the previous scene, but here I there is nothing to think about because it all surface deep, which makes some of the banality just so dull, especially the final 10 minutes.
  • October 31, 2011
    Michael is a disturbing but quiet, largely evasive drama involving Michael - a man with a regular job who "keeps to himself", and whom hides in the specially locked and separately wired basement of his house a 10 year-old boy; Michael is a paedophile. The film shows Michae... read morel going about his day-to-day life for five months. He's a fairly private man, by necessity of course, though not without a social life. But in general, he goes to work, comes home, has dinner. Often, we see him interacting with the boy in his basement - giving him chores (the basement is an effect a miniature apartment - outfitted with it's own kitchenette and toilet), reading to him, sharing with him a meal. Aside from one moment of nudity, no sex is shown and is barely implied. The film doesn't try to show horrific abuse, though at the same time it's clear that the boy loathes Michael (there's no Stockholm Syndrome here). The boy has been lied to about his circumstances (we never see how he got there, or if his family are searching for him) but is intelligent enough to realise that he is being manipulated. The film takes a massive shift in the last 20 minutes with an unbearably tense final, prolonged sequence, and director Markus Schleinzer cleverly heightens the tension merely by showing people walking through rooms. The ending is incredibly courageous, refusing to offer any closure, answers, sense of justice or injustice, and provoked a very split reaction in the screening I saw (I was very much reminded of the reaction to the ending of Meek's Cutoff, with which Michael shares a similar detached - but not clinical - tone). However, the main problem I have is one of point. Why does the film exist? What is it trying to say? How am I supposed to feel? For many this was one of the film's virtues and indeed it's refreshing for a film - particular one with this kind of subject matter - to not entertain any usual conventions. The one thing it does show is that even though Michael is a monster, he still has a family that cares for him and whom presumably will have much to "deal" with after the film ends - unusually it will be them you are thinking of, not Michael, not the boy. But for much of the running time I wondered why I was watching it. Not that I was bored, that wouldn't be true - it's very, very well acted, interestingly filmed and edited, and quite gripping. But there just didn't seem to be much reason for the film to exist.
  • June 3, 2012
    This is hands down one of the scariest movies I've seen. Delving into the mind of a pedophile in such detail is no easy ride for sure. The implied sexual violations are brutal and never fall onto easy exploitative territory. Never knowing if the predator has feelings, is just a m... read moreonster, if he's seeking a relationship with a child, if he regrets it is explored into such detail we just want it all to end quickly. This is obvious a masterful work from the director who keeps things really well balanced without falling into easy shocking territory and always showing as well how the victim is affected throughout. It also needed a really strong lead to succeed and Michael Fuith delivers with scary detail.

    Not an easy watch but an intriguing scary ride on humanity's worse depravity.
  • fb100004905157511
    February 16, 2013
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    Australian director Markus Schleinzer's first feature is a markedly cold, matter-of-fact depiction of five months in the life of a practicing paedophile who has imprisoned a 10-year-old boy in his sound-proofed basement. Schleinzer's film is a story heavily anchored in controvers... read morey which, through revealing very little, has traversed sensationalism and created one of the most provocative and alarming arthouse features of recent years.

    Michael (Michael Fuith) is a thirty-something unmarried insurance agent who, by necessity, meticulously keeps up domestic ritual. Michael, you see, is a homosexual pederast. A white-collared office worker by day, Michael keeps to himself, shying away from human contact until he returns home after work. Behind his suburban home's mechanical steel shutters and a soundproof basement door, Michael is holding a 10-year-old boy (David Rauchenberger) captive--and apparently has been for some time.

    Much of the film takes place in the house they inhabit, both as prisoners; the boy-literally and Michael--captive to his perversion. "Michael" is most affective however when young Wolfgang is away from the screen. Schleinzer sporadically removes us from Wolfgang's suburban prison to observe Michael clumsily attempt to integrate himself into society. Whether he's out trying to 'find' a companion for Wolfgang, or on an awkward work skiing trip, it becomes agonizing to watch,

    The sexual encounters between Michael and Wolfgang are sparse and brief, with Schleinzer unwilling, and obviously unable to depict the acts of molestation in a graphic nature. The directors handling of such scenes is representative of Michael as a whole - we as an audience are always left to fill in the blanks. No worries here about it ever displaying anything outright shocking, it remains suitably restrained.

    Ultimately, "Michael" hinges on the subtlety and believability of its characters. Without such performances, the film could easily have been little more than a slice of shock cinema. Fuith is not just a convincing predator, but all the more crucially a convincing human being, driven by motivations outside of mere sexual gratification. "Michael" allows itself and its characters to slowly develop over its runtime so you get not just the immediate impression of how reprehensible this man is, but to really get a sense of the depth of his insanity.
  • June 5, 2012
    Didn't think I'd see one of these for a while, wherein the pedophile is frankly analyzed bare bones and all, in his rugged terrain accompanied by his victim in his claws, leaving the audience to helplessly sit back and watch as he devours the prey in plain sight. Not to mention t... read morehe depth a devil is given, committing one of society's unpardonable sins. Then again, "Foreign film. From Austria." Male director though. Hmmm, I'm guessing sex is less worrisome over there in this context, or the guy just hopes his audience consists of mature minded arthouse individuals, which I sometimes still don't think is the case when it comes to provoking some of the more emotional art fans. Anyway, the reactions from virtually every perspective are way too convoluted for a simple dissection. There is no doubt that the people that are involved with this film in any way, whether it be the production department, the unsuspecting viewer, the film critic, the Flixster critic, the critic of the Flixster critic, etc. risk being seen in a stigmatizing light because the subject and theme is that strong, especially in this scenario, given the raw manner of filming arguably the most taboo subject in the West with an awkward, unafraid, contentious precision. The film is remarkably well written, acted, and filmed. Even without the morbidly compelling element of being witness to....you know...."that".... it stands on its own as an evenly paced, thought provoking, taboo shattering polemic study while remaining even handed. I'm genuinely curious what the "Immediately shut off, take disc out and burnt it" rate is for people as I'm sure parents are programmed to have this elephant's feet super glued to the floor of their kids' rooms rather than figure out how to shoe it away, and secondly they feel it's illegal to have the film in their possession.

Critic Reviews


Stanley Kauffmann
June 18, 2013
Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic

Another full unfaltering performance by a child. This time it's in a horror film. Full Review

Tom Keogh
May 10, 2012
Tom Keogh, Seattle Times

A strange and agonizingly engrossing drama despite its repellent subject. Full Review

Dave Calhoun
February 29, 2012
Dave Calhoun, Time Out

There are no easy conclusions here - no explanations. Events unfold with a random, even black comic abandon. Full Review

Alonso Duralde
February 16, 2012
Alonso Duralde, TheWrap

What interests Schleinzer is putting us inside Michael's head, even though we're repelled by his activities, and his no-frills approach works. Full Review

Mark Jenkins
February 16, 2012
Mark Jenkins, NPR

Like its protagonist, Michael is deliberate and very discreet. It shocks by suggestion, not by display. Full Review

Scott Tobias
February 16, 2012
Scott Tobias, AV Club

It's a chilling film about the routine business of unspeakable acts. Full Review

Mark Olsen
February 16, 2012
Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times

A hermetically sealed creep-fest that seems to have no desire to be anything more than just that. Full Review

V.A. Musetto
February 15, 2012
V.A. Musetto, New York Post

A well-acted, otherwise tightly scripted movie that builds suspense with a series of unexpected twists and turns. Full Review

Stephen Holden
February 14, 2012
Stephen Holden, New York Times

This coldly compelling film doesn't try to explain Michael's behavior or analyze his disease. As if doing penance for Michael's sins, it eventually metes out unequivocal punishment, but it is small co... Full Review

Nick Pinkerton
February 14, 2012
Nick Pinkerton, Village Voice

Schleinzer approaches his subject not as an investigator, but as though covering up a crime scene and scrubbing it of anything that might provide insight or empathy or psychological traction. Full Review

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