TIFF 2011: MICHAEL

Michael (Markus Schleinzer, 2011). Markus Schleinzer's truly disturbing directorial debut Michael--not to be confused with Ribhu Dasgupta's Hindi feature of the same name--exerts a morbid fascination on the viewer, compelling attention to an unpleasant yet skillfully suspenseful narrative of a pederast who keeps a boy imprisoned in his cellar. Not for the righteous and hardly for anybody else. Several colleagues with children of their own have made it clear to me that they refuse to watch this film. Judging by their reactions, Schleinzer is more offensive than brave for broaching the subject. In some ways Michael could be classified as the same kind of horror film as Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer, which likewise left me disturbed and put off. So many movies claim to stare into the heart of evil--and usually do so through stylized effects that help to distance the spectator from the film--but, Michael does so with a naturalistic and non-judgmental accuracy that feels distasteful for leaving no room to hide. I will be very curious to see how this traffics--if at all--in coming months.

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