Roman Kogler (Thomas Schubert) is a bit lost. Four years in the Austrian juvenile detention system have left him numb and passionless, but he still yearns for resolution. BREATHING follows him as he seeks this resolution out.
In an art house adventure that seems shorter than its 90 minutes, we see him breathe, hear him breathe, hear anecdotes about him breathing in the past… He is a strapping young lad, socially awkward and unfortunate, with a habit of missing his stop on the train. He is driven, for reasons that are not initially clear, to take work at an undertakers, where he is at once disturbed by the reality of death, and treated with derision and resentment for his ASBO status.
Karl Markovics is perhaps best known to English cinema audiences for his role in the celebrated 2007 war film THE COUNTERFEITERS, but BREATHING marks his writing/directing debut. It’s an essayistic piece on grief, that manages to escape being too “It’s grim out in Eastern Europe” with a very light touch of comic relief and sentimentality. It’s testament to the director that for what is essentially a prison tale, it’s far from claustrophobic. With so few extras, however, the world seems almost deserted. This serves to keep the mood as cold as the temperature. The camerawork is sweeping and poetic, with subtle use of strange angles, muffled focus, and one very deftly timed action shot involving a train and a black leather glove.
BREATHING is Austria’s submission to the 2012 Oscars, and the relentlessly deadpan Schubert has already picked up a Best Actor award for this performance, at the Sarajevo film festival.
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