Karl Markovics (The lead in the Oscar Winning film The Counterfeiters) makes his directorial début with Breathing, a slow burn and reflective drama which is screening as part of the 2013 Audi Festival of German Film. Is Markovics as good as a writer/director as he is a renowned actor? Find out after the jump.
Kogler (Thomas Schubert) is a quiet 18-year-old man who is imprisoned in a detention centre. He spends his days inside the compound, except when he is allowed to leave in order to work, a mandatory part of his transition back into society. He’s been fired from his last two jobs, but as he is desperate he applies for a job working as a mortician in a city-run morgue. He, along with two others are responsible for collecting the bodies of people who have just died, whether it be in their homes or on the street, and transport them to the local morgue. This is not necessarily a line of work any 18-year-old should really be privy to. He’s a quiet guy, filled with guilt and only really speaks to people when he has to. Does he like his job? Not quite, but it’s his inability to interact with other people that’s prevented him from keeping his last two jobs. He has to hold a job down at least until his hearing in a few weeks. He has to be employed and look presentable if he even has a chance of leaving the centre.
We follow his day-to-day and his minuscule attempts at changing his life, or even forming one. The crime he committed never leaves him, it is always present. Every one knows what he did, yet he’s unwilling to share. He has to understand who he is and why he is the way he is before he can leave and properly return to society. What crime did he commit? What relationships can he form? Does he have a chance to be someone and leave the centre?
Markovics is a very confident director, we see the world through Kloger’s eyes, which is accentuated via stable and still shots of his surroundings. It’s a slow-moving film as said, and Germany is painted to be a very cold place for Kloger. Markovics captures this perfectly simply by being incredibly patient in telling this story. It will prove frustrating to some, much like it was for me in the very first fifteen minutes of the film. Setting and tone are established before characters are, and this will either deter audiences from this story or allow their curiosity to grow. Breathing proves to be rewarding in the end, but your patience is very much required.
The performances are incredibly solid. We only really follow Kloger the entire film, so as good as the supporting cast is, our attention is on Schubert’s performance. His reliance on facial expressions, reactions and ultimately silence is a real challenge for any actor, yet he accomplishes it effortlessly. We really understand his fear with human contact and interaction, even if we don’t know him entirely throughout the film. The screenplay also written by Markovics is suitably minimalist, and dialogue is used sparingly. Details of his past are downplayed, which proves to be a wise decision as we see the story progress.
Breathing is a quiet yet effective film, evoking one’s perceptions and understanding of loneliness and fear of those who can’t quite comprehend the world outside their door. It’s a film that should be seen and it will certainly remind you that patience in cinema can always be rewarding.
Breathing is screening as part of the Audi 2013 Festival of German Film, screening in 6 Australian locations during April and May. For screening times and ticket information, please visit the festival website.
By Chris Elena
Director: Karl Markovics
Writer(s): Karl Markovics
Starring: Thomas Schubert, Karin Lischka, Georg Friederich
Runtime: 94 minutes