2007's drama 'The Counterfeiters' won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. Its Austrian lead actor, Karl Markovics, has now turned his hand to writing and directing. His first feature film, 'Breathing' (from the Austrian 'Atmen'), proves to be a ponderous yet immersive character piece exploring the past, present and future of a juvenile offender.
Thomas Schubert is the adept lead, Roman, a solitary 19 year old who struggles to move on from his criminal past. On day release, Roman finds a probationary job at a mortuary as he seeks parole, adopting an uneasy relationship with his co-workers and prison officers. Working with death, Roman ponders his life - particularly his childhood abandonment by his mother.
At times, the pace of 'Breathing' may slow almost to a metaphorical crawl - yet unlike recent films, this is rarely an impediment. Instead, Markovics' direction feels reassuringly purposeful and immersive - an appropriate adjective considering the use of underwater sequences. Markovics also guides Schubert's excellent debut performance, and the duo have undoubtedly enhanced their respective reputations here.
'Breathing' encompasses many moods, moving toward the hopeful yet often depressive, and its quiet introspection often proves rather mesmerising. Ultimately however, 'Breathing' falls short of greatness but having already demonstrated considerable talent in front of the camera, Karl Markovics has strongly outlined his abilities as a writer-director.
'Breathing' is out in UK cinemas from today, on Verve Pictures.