This unembellished Austrian import doesn't ignore or exploit its controversial subject matter getting one into the mindset and dynamic of an insurance office worker looking to be promoted who happens to be a pedophile kidnapper and his 10-year-old prisoner.
Michael Fuith and David Rauchenberger star in Michael (obviously no relation to the picture when John Travolta enjoyed much success) which has a dissentious, unctuous quality about it that casting agent-turned-director Markus Schleinzer uses to his advantage.
Rauchenberger's Wolfgang actually hardly has horrible conditions in the preppy adult's basement with items to keep his mind busy as well as clean living conditions and plenty of food. The captor (keeping those close to him at bay with stories), done with self-doubt and sinister impulsiveness by Fuith, almost seems like a father to Wolfgang, allowing him to share his quarters for TV, dinner and even the holidays. The equilibrium of an effective, insinuatingly shifting narrative is disrupted when Michael ends up in a hospital after being struck by a car.
Schleinzer has learned well to make the step in a profession where he has helped directors with talent like Isabelle Huppert in this case to empathize with an unnerving vicissitude through the unseen acts that bond the characters. And, he has done so with much craftsmanship that belies a limited budgeting and shooting schedule. Rauchenberger begins to reveal a change from a needy, upbeat persona and is complemented by Fuith with understated gravity from a shared, yet disparate loneliness.
"Michael" isn't concerned what precipitated this precarious condition or how the insurance man developed such a disturbing side to him, but it unpredictably leads to a startling conclusion based on family impressions.