For Reel


Breathing (2011)
March 11, 2012, 4:11 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Karl Markovics

Karl Markovics is best known to American audiences as the leading actor of The Counterfeiters, the winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2008. With Breathing, which premiered as part of the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight in 2011, the Austrian star makes his directorial debut. Nesting somewhere between Boy A and Departures, this coming-of-age picture follows a teenage inmate of a juvenile detention center. His counselor tells him that it would be in his best interest to hold down a job before facing the parole board, and before too long he is transporting corpses for a mortuary services provider. Markovics is ambitious behind the camera, often using elaborate compositions and long takes, however the supposed subtleties pack a grating wallop. Frequently, for example, the boy is filmed submerged underwater, as if to suggest the suffocating weight of his existential burden. Though the young lead, Thomas Schubert, is compelling enough, he is held back by a script filled with an explicit breed of meaningful gestures. Furthermore, the boy’s complex with his mother – he is terribly pained having been given up when he was just twelve months old – is a weak point, as he displaces the blame of his crime to a purportedly unstable upbringing. Aside from the misguided punishing of a woman for giving up motherhood, the ethical dilemma is a non-issue from the beginning. The forgiveness she inevitably earns is no revelation for the audience, and as such it fails to designate a convincing transformation within the character.

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