JDIFF 2012 First Look Cinema Review: Michael, a chilling child-kidnapping tale from Austria

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

First Look: Michael

Tuesday, 21st February, 6:15pm, Light House 

I was apprehensive going to see this feature from Austrian filmmaker Markus Schleinzer, its plot echoing the case of kidnapped Austrian girl Natascha Kampusch.  Michael (Michael Fuith) is holding a young boy Wolfgang (David Rauchenberger) captive in his basement and both go about their day-to-day lives.

This film is not out to shock the viewer with graphic scenes instead it is the  filmmaker’s skill and the viewer’s imagination that conjures up the sometimes chilling horror.  Schleinzer sticks to the everyday logisitics of a pedophile keeping a captive child, for instance showing him wandering around a supermarket with a large load of groceries in preparation for when he leaves the house for a prolonged period.

It contains another great performance from a younger actor in this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival in David Rauchenbuger.  One can’t help wondering how Schleinzer went about directing him without leaving a seriously scarred and traumatised child actor behind, or at least one not more scarred and traumatised than regular child actors.

Michael Fuith, perhaps unfortunately for him, looks like he was born to play a child predator.  When these horrific cases come to light, you often hear neighbours and work colleagues say how shocked they were, that the perpetrator was always so quiet and polite and it was the last thing they would have expected.  Fuith’s Michael is exactly that. Frequently silent, expressionless, emotionless, socially awkward, going about his otherwise mundane daily life.

Its subject matter makes it tough to recommend as a ‘go-see’ piece of entertainment, but the techniques employed by Schleinzer to conjure up tension and dread in an audience ought to be admired and experienced.

Gordon Gaffney


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