Monday, 16 May 2011

Cannes Day 4: Michael

"This is my knife, and this is my cock.
Which one would you like me to stick inside you?"
Michael Haneke protégé Marcus Schleinzer has successfully unnerved the press here at Cannes with his Competition film Michael, and deservingly so.  
Schleinzer’s film is described as a portrait of the “last five months of 10-year-old Wolfgang and 35-year-old Michael’s involuntary life together.”
The other thing you should probably know is that Michael is a pedophile. Aside from that, he does a decent job at being a father. What?
Schleinzer has you feel that if Wolfgang was not locked up in the sound-proofed basement, Michael would be a typically normal father figure. This makes watching Michael a very unnerving experience, but that doesn’t make it any less amazing.
The beautiful thing about Michael is the respect it has with its audience. Schleinzer never panders with over-explanation in his scenes, making the pace of the film extremely economical. You will never see more than you need to. Events will cut halfway through their expected length, but the information has already been delivered. Successfully. This is because Schleinzer recognizes that your imagination is a powerful thing, and Michael makes your mind (and stomach) churn.
On that note, Michael is fairly tame. The images in your head will likely be much worse than anything depicted here. There is, however, an incredibly stressful moment where Michael attempts to kidnap another boy at a racetrack – and if you haven’t already been biting your nails at this point, expect them to be at a nub when it’s over.
With excellent acting from both pedophile and child, Michael is a bone-chilling slow burn.

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