A cut-out-and-keep guide to imprisoning a child in your basement

Sunday May 22nd 2011

Michael isn’t going to win the Palme d’Or. It’s not a Palme d’Or film. It should probably be in the Un Certain Regard category to be honest because as good as it is, the idea of comparing it to films like The Tree of Life is ludicrous. Malick’s film encapsulates millions of years of celestial and evolutionary history; Michael is 96 minutes of a paedophile doing bits and bobs: washing up, commuting, buying groceries.

Nonetheless, the understated debut by Michael Haneke’s regular casting agent Markus Schleinzer is every bit as effective as its higher-profile rivals, precisely because not much happens. And not ‘not much happens’ in the Uncle Boonme or (to use an example from this year’s competition) Once Upon a Time in Anatolia sense, where the whole thing seems at least partially designed to test your patience. Instead, the film revels in the methodical details of a Fritzl-style child imprisonment, horrifying its audience with their banality, just as 2007 winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days made illegal abortion all the more harrowing by shooting it like a particularly bothersome queue down the post office. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t dramatic high points in Michael; just you wait for the big dance number at the end. (Joke. (or is it?))

Artificial Eye have bought the film for UK distribution – obviously – so we can expect it to hit ‘Blighty’ (as Variety endlessly refer to it) at some point before the year’s end. In the meantime, try and fit in as many viewings of Winnie the Pooh as possible, because you are going to need something cheery to think about afterwards.