Breathing Review

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Released after serving a sentence for killing a fellow orphan in a brawl, 19 year-old Roman (Thomas Schubert) takes a menial job delivering bodies to a Vienna morgue. When he finds one bearing his mother's name, he resolves to track her down and reconcile with his past.


Actor Karl Markovics makes an impressive directorial debut with this steely tale, which eschews sentimentality in exploring the problem of dealing with the past in order to face the future. Having been abandoned as an infant and incarcerated since killing a kid in an orphanage brawl, Roman (Thomas Schubert) reluctantly accepts a work release post delivering cadavers to the Vienna morgue. He determines to track down his mother after recovering a corpse with the same surname. Despite the edgy lyrical realism achieved by cinematographer Martin Gschlacht, this impeccably paced rite of passage defies the recent trend in Austrian cinema by allowing a touch of compassion to breach the bleakness. The result is deeply moving.

Best known until now for Oscar-winning holocaust drama The Counterfeiters, Karl Markovics flexes his muscles on the other side of the camera with terrific effect. A fine, moving debut for the new writer/director.