Hot Property: Michael
Written by Chris Chang
Markus Schleinzer’s directing credits are a mile long. Make that casting director’s credits, and make it some 45 titles (he’s 39). Notice the essential Michael Haneke films. Likewise one by Ulrich Seidl and most of Michael Glawogger. Consider the Austrian’s interest in work by artists who make films (Pipilotti Rist and Shirin Neshat). From these on-paper clues an aesthetic already emerges: coldness and cruelty with bursts of warmth and normalcy.
The set-up for Schleinzer’s first feature is simplicity (and evil) itself: Michael (Michael Fuith), a punctilious insurance salesman, in his clean and overtly secure suburban home, has built a room in the basement with a vault-like door where he has incarcerated a kidnapped 10-year-old boy. Part of the time they “play house”: the man cooks dinner, they clean up and maybe watch TV, and even go outside and do things a father and son might do. Perhaps most unnerving are the periods of time when the two are apart: when Michael drives alone in his car, or works in his bland corporate office, or goes off on a rather inexplicable ski vacation. These are emotionally detached sequences, but because the audience knows all too well what is going on in Michael’s mind, they are fraught with ticking-time-bomb terror. (The ending is a knockout.)
While singing the praises of a film centered on a pedophile is no easy task, Schleinzer’s artistry makes it a must. Objective, analytic, clinical, dispassionate—these are not words often used to describe something so engrossing and gripping. But perhaps an even harder duty than commending the film will be finding a theater in which you will actually be able to see it.
Sales Agent: Nikolaus Geyrhalter Filmproduktion
© 2011 by The Film Society of Lincoln Center