Breathing (15)

Starring: Thomas Schubert, Karin Lishka

The actor Karl Markovics (The Counterfeiters) makes a superior feature debut on a deeply unpromising subject.

Roman (Thomas Schubert) is a reticent, dead-eyed youth who, abandoned as a child, is now serving time in a juvenile detention centre. Without friends or family, and shortly to face a hearing for his crime, he gets a probationary post shifting corpses at the municipal morgue in Vienna – talk about a dead-end job.

Markovics' cool-headed direction and Schubert's almost passive performance lull us into a world of sorrowful undertakings, not untouched by a morbid comedy. In its tracing of a soul being coaxed into life it's crafty, and oddly tense, with a stand-out scene that involves no more than the knotting of a tie. Schubert gives a performance of heroic restraint. Warmly recommended.

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