© THIM FILM/24 Bilder

Atmen (Breathing)
Austria 2011

Opening 8 Dec 2011

Directed by: Karl Markovics
Writing credits: Karl Markovics
Principal actors: Georg Friedrich, Magdalena Kronschläger, Luna Mijovic, Thomas Schubert, Stephanie Taussig

The withdrawn and tight-mouthed Roman Kogler (Thomas Schuber) is 19 years old and has lived in the Youth Detention Centre for the last four years. Soon he is going to be released if he can hold down a job in the “outside world” during his trial period. He is a loner, has no family ties, no friends and never had a chance to develop social skills. This is his last opportunity to find a job and stick to it. An advertisement of a burial institute appeals to him, and he decides that working with the dead might be the solution. It is not only the dead he has to cope with but he also has to endure his colleagues, especially Rudolf (Georg Friedrich). It is frustrating to watch how stoically he ignores Rudolf’s rude behaviour. Only after he witnesses Rudolf washing an old deceased lady with almost tender respect, a mutual acceptance of each other develops. This scene is touching, realistic and without a hint of sentimentality.

Usually withdrawn and uncommunicative, Roman unexpectedly gets drawn out of his shell when a young woman with his own surname, Kogler, has to be collected. His nerves are shaken. Could this be his unknown mother (Karin Lischka), who had dropped him at an orphanage as a baby? This incident wakes him up, triggering a reaction to the world around him.

Karl Markovics tells a seemingly depressing story of two taboo themes (youth detention and handling of the dead) in an almost poetic way, filmed in a minimalist manner. The perfect timing and control of sounds, the short cuts and Markovics’s unerring eye for detail carry a tension throughout the film. Carefully composed pictures, intelligently filmed by Martin Gschlacht, are particularly impressive. An underwater scene in the swimming pool is stunning and beautiful (as well as meaningful). Markovics is an already accomplished actor (i.e. Unknown; Süskind, 2011; Mahler, 2010; The Counterfeiter, 2008), and this is his debut behind the camera. As his main protagonist he has chosen an untrained actor. Thomas Schuber must be complemented for his truly engaging portrait of a youth born into difficult circumstances. The film presents a look at a world which is usually ignored – or shied away from – by the rest of society. (Birgit Schrumpf)

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