A lot of people find it hard to sit through foreign movies. You have to overlook harsh, grating words like lebensmittelgeschäft (grocery store) while simultaneously following the subtitles.
I get it, but oftentimes the extra (minimal) effort is worth it. Karl Markovic’s (known for his role in the German film “The Counterfeiters”) “Breathing” is proof of that.
While “Breathing” is Markovic’s first foray into directing, it seems like the product of a seasoned director on the cusp of an Academy Award nomination.
The story revolves around Roman Kogler (Thomas Schubert), an incarcerated 19-year-old on parole.
Kogler’s future appears bleak. He’s alone without family and fails to keep a job during his time on parole.
And eventually, when Kogler does find a job, he settles on being an undertaker.
The setting is made even more desolate with the help of Martin Gschlacht, the film’s cinematographer.
He frames scenes impeccably, creating the perfect atmosphere. A long shot of Kogler walking along an empty highway forces the audience to see and feel the isolation that Kogler faces.
The acting is excellent as well.
When Kogler encounters his first body, his eyes trail off, jumping from place to place. His facial expressions go from incredibly repulsed to awestruck, as he awkwardly rocks back and forth on the balls of his feet.
What makes the acting great is that during the entire time, Schubert says hardly a word. Yet he’s able to convey so much emotion.
The good acting also makes for a fair amount of character development.
At first, I didn’t like Kogler. He would sit silently and wouldn’t listen to his parole officer. It seemed like he rejected help, so I didn’t feel sorry for him.
But as the story progressed, I found myself sympathizing with him. I saw where he came from and began to see the hardships he had to endure.
When his jailmates and coworkers berated him, I wanted to stick up for Kogler. I saw why he shut everyone out.
And that’s not something easy to achieve. Seamlessly developing a character deserves kudos.
But after all, it’s a depressing movie. Most of the film centers on death and despair. Some of the scenes deal with these themes in a very forthright manner. The undertakers drag, plop and package the dead, and it’s all exposed for the audience to see.
In the end, tragedies make the best stories, though. So if you’re feeling up to it, you should give “Breathing” a shot.
It’s different, it’s foreign, it’s depressing and, most importantly, it’s good.