Breathing is the story of a 19-year-old inmate in a juvenile detention centre on the outskirts of Vienna. Compelling, unembellished and quite well done, Karl Markovics’ first foray into the world of film-directing is a success.
Roman Kogler (Thomas Schubert) has been in confinement since he caused the death of another boy four years previously. Having been denied release at past parole hearings, he doesn’t anticipate anything different from an upcoming one. His counsellor, played by Gerhard Liebman, advises him that his chances would improve if he got a steady job in the work-release programme.
Growing up in orphanages and the care system left Roman incredibly isolated from real life. His job as a mortuary service provider transporting corpses allows him a view of life from the perspective of an observer, with his absolute impassivity slowly being diminished through the course of the film. Navigating a world where he is less than welcomed by his co-workers, Roman begins a journey that breaches the divide between observing reality and actually entering it. His encounter with a body-bag which bears the same surname as him prompts him to consider his origins. Roman’s subsequent forays into emotion come when he searches for his birth mother.
His character’s view of the perplexing, stunning, baffling, tragic and beautiful world from which he has been isolated for so long come in a sequence of encounters with a flirty tourist on the train, a shattering encounter with a grieving relative and his first encounter with his mother. His reactions to death, life, and reconnection to the world keep the film engrossing rather than being uneventful.
Markovics’s vision of the story enables the viewer to absorb the complexities of the characters without being overwhelmed with visual scenes and dialogue. The simplicity evident in the composition and editing of the film allows the audience to focus on the characters. Though there admittedly is not much action occurring throughout the film, Markovics draws the audience in until they become completely entrenched in the mind and thoughts of the protagonist.
With dramatic integrity and a keen visual and editorial production, Breathing is a film that will keep you engrossed in the world of Roman Kogler until the last credits roll.
Breathing (Atmen) is released nationwide on 20th April 2012.
Watch the trailer for Breathing (Atmen) here: