Michael: Pedophilia Only Implied, Not Shown

Michael (Michael Fuith) is a 30-something unmarried insurance agent who, by necessity, meticulously keeps up domestic ritual. Michael, you see, is a homosexual pederast. 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. Depicting this domestic hell, writer/director Markus Schleinzer stays detached and objective; the boy sheds tears only with his back turned tactfully to the camera, so as not to be accused of petitioning the viewer for sympathy. It’s an anti-entertainment style that forswears obvious tools of viewer manipulation without adding much of anything in their place. The poker-faced “sustained tone” is often indistinguishable from cruise control. Given the subject’s intrinsic queasiness, Michael is a difficult movie to watch. But aside from whatever special problems come with casting and financing a movie about a pedophile, was it really difficult to make? Schleinzer approaches his subject not as an investigator, but as though he’s covering up a crime scene, scrubbing it of anything that might provide insight or empathy or psychological traction. The cleanup is so thorough, you can’t detect what possible motive he might have had for making Michael, other than to play a nasty game with the viewer’s natural concern for a child’s life. This is cheap when it comes with a Hollywood happy ending, and no better without.