Breathing (atmen)

Directed by Karl Marcovics
  • Austria
  • 90 minutes
  • 2011

The directorial debut of Austrian actor Karl Markovics, Breathing is an assured, intelligent work that has deservedly picked up a number of prizes in Europe since it premiered at Cannes. It concerns Roman, an institutionalised young offender in Vienna, serving time for a violent crime with a surly, uncommunicative attitude, blankly accepting of the solitary conditions. Parole is a prospect, though, without any family or connections, Roman doesn’t appear to be a prime candidate for reintegration into the community. Given the option of a work-release programme, he takes up a job in a mortuary, shifting dead bodies. The work is physically and emotionally draining, and his co-workers are unfriendly, though he finds reason to be there when he comes across a body bag holding a woman who shares his surname. It occurs to Roman that this may be the mother who gave him up for adoption, and he begins to explore his past.

The restrained observational direction and the emotional intensity of the performances, particularly non-actor Thomas Schubert in the lead role, are the marks of a notable film with integrity and weight. - Michael Hayden, BFI London Film Festival

Thomas Schubert, Georg Friedrich, Karin Lischka