Profile: Markus Schleinzer - writer and director of Michael

  • The List
  • 17 February 2012
Profile: Markus Schleinzer - writer and director of Michael

Debut film based on Madeleine McCann and Josef Fritzl cases

8 November, 1971, Vienna

Schleinzer has spent 17 years in the Austrian film industry as a casting director, working for filmmakers such as Michael Haneke (The Piano Teacher, The White Ribbon), Jessica Hausner (Lovely Rita, Lourdes) and Ulrich Seidl (Dog Days). His debut feature, Michael, which he wrote and directed, was the only German-language film in competition at Cannes in 2011. Inspired by the Natascha Kampusch and Josef Fritzl cases, and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, it observes the last five months in the relationship between a 35-year-old paedophile (Michael Fuith) and a 10-year-old boy (David Rauchenberger) whom he keeps in his locked basement.

On high-profile paedophile cases
‘When I began writing the script for Michael in late 2008, you couldn’t pick up a paper or switch on the TV, without noticing the Madeleine McCann or the Josef Fritzl cases. I was disgusted by the way the tabloid press used these stories to make money. I wanted to make a film about paedophilia which wasn’t easy to consume.’

On ‘feel bad’ cinema
‘Some critics have said that Michael is a cold movie. To me it’s not cold, it’s pure. I certainly didn’t think of it as another ‘feel bad’ Austrian film. From the beginning I insisted that I would not show any sexual scenes. Why should I depict a child being raped, even though we know this happens in real life?’

On the resurgence of Austrian cinema
‘As well as auteur films by the likes of Haneke and Hausner and Seidl, we also make some mainstream comedies. We’re a very small country – there are only eight million of us, compared to 80 million in Germany. It’s very hard to make money out of films in Austria, but the good thing is you are not expected to offer up gifts to your audience.’

Interesting fact
Schleinzer has been cast as an actor in the forthcoming film The Boundary Man, in which Klaus Maria Brandauer plays the pioneering Austrian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, who ended up being jailed in America in the 1950s.

Michael is on selected release from Fri 2 Mar.

Michael Trailer (2012)


  • 4 stars
  • 2011
  • Austria
  • 1h 36min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Markus Schleinzer
  • Cast: Michael Fuith, David Rauchenberger, Christine Kain
  • UK release: 2 March 2012

Michael (Fuith) is a 30-something office worker and kindly uncle who nevertheless keeps a 10-year-old boy (Rauchenberger) in a locked basement. Schleinzer will doubtless be pilloried for 'humanising' his protagonist, but this austere portrait of a sexual predator refuses easy options, conveying the true horror without a…

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