Star Rating:


Director: Karl Markovics

Actors: Georg Friedrich, Karin Lischka, Thomas Schubert

Release Date: Monday 30th November -0001

Genre(s): Drama

Running time: 94 minutes

This directorial debut from Karl Markovics, best known for playing the nasty antihero of Counterfeiters, is an engrossing drama and shaping up to be one of the year's best.

'You can't not give a shit your whole life and then wonder why it sucks,' 19-year-old juvenile delinquent Roman Kogler (Schubert) is told by social worker, Fackler (Liebmann). Roman has one more chance to impress the hitherto hostile judge at his next probation hearing and Fackler reckons a job is the way to go… but he wasn't expecting the boy to ring the offer in Vienna's morgue. Whatever Roman's reasons are for picking this job, the close proximity of the cold cadavers ignites something in the morose boy and he finally warms to the idea of doing something with his life.

More often than not, keeping character motivations hidden until the last possible moment is not the way to go - especially if the writer/director wants the audience to be sympathetic to the character's cause. But that's what we have in Breathing - at first we're watching a morose, sullen and unlikeable kid but by the time the end credits roll, the kid, changing little in his own persona, has us completely on his side. And it's all done with such subtlety and delicacy it's barely noticeable.

The very first scene is a puzzler: it's Roman's first day on the floor of a welding factory and a protective mask is placed over his head; taken by surprise, Roman screams and yanks the mask off his head. The danger here is that the audience might think they are watching a drama about a mentally disturbed kid, skewing their perception of what's to come, but the first time writer-director is confident that the tiny twists and turns will pay off and all questions answered.

He's right to be confident. Markovics even keeps answers to the big questions - 'How long Roman is in the juvenile detention centre?', What he did to be put there?', Where is his family?', etc - at bay until he feels it's the perfect time to divulge. The tactic forces the viewer to continually second guess their thoughts on Roman: we at first dislike, then not sure of, and finally feel sorry for. It might move at a snail's pace but every little moment on screen is essential, if not at first obvious. The change in Roman, played beautifully by Thomas Shcubert, also making his debut, isn't brought on by one single event, it's a change by a hundred little things.