Michael ★★★

As mentioned in nearly every other review, this film uses the visual stylings of Haneke as an aesthetic launching pad for something that never really launches. As in, aside from the use of fragmentation, the form that is implemented never feels nearly as considered as it would under Haneke.

But with that being said, the fragmentation really works. Many cuts carry with them horrifying implications as to what is not being shown. These implications are all the more horrifying in the context of what actually is shown. The shot of Michael & the sink just before the title card hits with an oppressive sickening weight once the context of this fragment is realized. These dreaded moments are maintained throughout, right up until the Schrodinger's cat ending.

The lack of attempt to create identification with Michael is also well considered, as the audience's care for his wellbeing becomes indirect without becoming absent. As in, one is "invested" in Michael's status not for the sake of Michael, but for the sake of the child that is tragically dependant on Michael. So, whatever happens to Michael is mentally linked for the audience with the subsequent effect on the child. Again, all of this is really impressive.

However, the visual stylings aren't as consistently impressive. The Haneke shots lack the historical knowledge that inform them under Haneke's control. They, for the most part, seem incidental. These shots are swapped for Dardenne-esque handheld shots at various points, but I couldn't seem to identify reasoning for these shots either. (This could very well be due to my own misreading.)
These Dardenne shots don't seem to hold their original social realist function by any means, nor are they utilized to track a character's gaze. I initially thought these shots were limited to outdoors, but that soon was obviously not the case. They seemed to be used in cases where a single set up would be difficult due to movement.

Both Haneke & the Dardennes are extremely measured and precise. They also have a natural sense of rhythm and pacing, which more or less can't be easily learned. And while Schleinzer demonstrated precision here, it seems much less impressive under the giants he's working in the shadows of. The admittedly hard to define "rhythm" feels off at times. But at other times, the precision and rhythm are in tune with the form and fragmentation, and the film really shines. Schleinzer has great potential, especially considering this was his debut. I'm certainly looking forward to what he's got next.

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