Breathing (Atmen) (NR)

Drama 90 August 31, 2012
By Michael Nordine
A film of unreconciled impulses, Breathing is by turns vaguely sentimental and cooly detached in a manner that's ultimately more off-putting than it is complementary. In one scene, an undertaker wins €10 from a colleague after correctly guessing that our protagonist, a juvenile delinquent named Roman (Thomas Schubert) forced to work in a morgue as part of his parole conditions, has seen a dead body before. Others are set to jazzy bass lines that simply don't jibe with the monochrome visuals. The early-morning blue in which much of this Vienna-set film is bathed works well as a mood-setter, but too many of the actual events onscreen are either superfluous accentuations of that mood or unconvincing departures from it. Writer-director Karl Markovics aims for self-aware humbleness but lands quite a bit closer to blandness instead. At times the peripheral relationship between Roman and his parole officer calls to mind a similar dynamic in Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's The Son, minus the allegorical heft-- —a flatness that, while hardly objectionable, still feels like a missed opportunity. That said, there is an extended shot of Roman walking parallel to a moving train–- the initial backward thrust, then the lurch forward-- that's as well-crafted as it is gently affecting. It's as though Breathing's intended balance between simplicity and emotional resonance got bottled up into one brief scene instead of evenly dispersed throughout.
Karl Markovics Thomas Schubert, Karin Lischka, Gerhard Liebmann, Georg Friedrich, Stefan Matousch, Georg Veitl, Klaus Rott, Luna Mijovic, Reinhold G. Moritz, Martin Oberhauser Karl Markovics Dieter Pochlatko, Nikolaus Wisiak Kino Lorber Films

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