“You’ve never really been outside,” guard to Roman Kogler (Thomas Schubert).
Actor Karl Markovics (THE COUNTERFEITERS) makes his writing and directorial debut with an assured and taciturn look at a teenager attempting to cope. BREATHING is not just any coming-of-age story; it is a quietly melancholy coverage of a tragic background (sans depressing self-consciousness). We are expertly drip-fed why Roman is in a juvenile detention facility. The moral implications are not judged, nor are they simplistic. This is both a pretty adroit character study, as well as a questioning of individual, parental and state responsibility.
Roman’s parole hearing is approaching. To demonstrate to the decision-makers that he can be a useful member of society, he needs to hold down a job. We first him in a factory screaming when a co-worker puts a welding mask on him – such an outburst is explained much later. Instead he is drawn to an advert in a newspaper for a position, at a morgue in Vienna, moving dead bodies. In his mind perhaps the job is a means of catharsis and redemption. While getting his head round such a tough role, and dealing with a prickly colleague, Roman is also searching out the mother that gave him up for adoption. Moving at a stately pace, BREATHING packs a lot in, eschewing trite sentimentality.