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3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 18 September 2012
I fought hard not to fall in love with this movie, but I lost that battle. Words seem inadequate to describe a movie that communicates so effectively with very few words, words that only hold the story together but never carry the full weight of its power. But all I have here is words, so I must try.

Breathing is the story of Roman Kogler, a 19-year-old inmate of a juvenile detention center where he has lived since he was 14 and killed a boy who had been bullying him. Roman was given up by his overwhelmed teenage mother soon after his birth (she had almost killed him to stop his crying) and has spent his whole life in orphanages and group homes, where the bullying incident occurred.

He is almost catatonic, with no idea how to relate to other human beings. He's like a wounded wild animal held in a cage, never looking anyone in the eye and almost never speaking; I didn't count, but I'd be surprised if he said more than 50 words in the whole movie. Inside the tortured, terrified shell is a sweet and gentle boy tired of being alone but with no idea how to come out; a chance encounter with an American girl on a train is especially touching and lovely.

Thomas Schubert, the totally inexperienced actor who plays him (never even in a school play, and went to the audition only because a friend he wanted to see was going) does it all with his eyes, his face, and his body language. To say it's a powerful performance is a pitifully inadequate understatement. He is amazing.

This is a very, very great movie, the first feature written and directed by Austrian actor Karl Markovics. It is quiet and unpredictable and deeply moving, with none of the cheap emotional manipulation, gut-wrenching melodrama and gratuitous plot twists I was afraid of after a lifetime of watching American movies. Breathing is beautiful, simple, powerful and profoundly satisfying.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 16 April 2013
Thomas Schubert gives a very good performance in this film and is certainly a pleasure to watch even if the character is also rather heartbreaking in his misfortunes. The focus on morgue work is unusual, but as the character says, someone has to do it. The comparison with Fish Tank made on the box strikes me as not being very accurate, beyond the fact that both films stick closely to a young protagonist who has an uncaring mother, and build audience empathy with them. Breathing is the stranger film, certainly, but I did find it a bit too macabre, with quite so many corpses, and also quite such coldness generally shown to Roman. It seems to be a style you find in Austrian cinema, from Haneke's films to Jessica Hausner (Lourdes) to the recent Michael (which I find execrable) - why the unremitting look at such dark subject matter through an unmoving, rather clinical lens? Breathing is, however, one of the least sterile of these films, and consequently more rewarding.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 17 September 2012
This is one of those films that you just don't know what to expect, it is about Roman Kugler Thomas Schubert). When we meet him he is in a Youth Detention Centre awaiting a parole hearing. He has been abandoned by his mother at an early age and now has committed the crime of accidentally killing a boy some years before. He has spent his whole life in institutions and seems to lack empathy with any one as no one has ever card for him.

He is told that without a probationer job, the likelihood of being granted parole is akin to a snowballs chance in hell. But he just can't seem to hold one down. Then he happens upon a job advert working for the municipal morgue in Vienna and is amazed when they take him on. This is something you have to have a strong stomach for, and one of the many allusions to the `breathing' in the title, is when he is told to breathe through his mouth; to avoid the stench of death. There are many references to breathing some subtle, others less so.

Then he has to deal with a corpse of a woman with his own surname and he gets to thinking about the past and his own mother who started his hapless life and he starts to look for that past.

This is one of those films that has you captivated but it is hard to explain why. There is loads to see and take in, but you have to do it yourself, nothing is sign posted and that is really good as it is treating the viewer as an adult. There are some scenes of death which make it look less dignified than passing wind in front of royalty, but that is life some profanity and mild nudity, but it is all done in a realistic and tasteful way.

Director Karl Morkovics (`The Counterfeiters') has created something touching in its simplicity and believable in its out of the ordinariness. Everyone puts in a great performance and I think there is a great career for Thomas Schubert if this performance is anything to go by. I thoroughly recommend to fans of quality European cinema and for those who like it just a bit different; in German with very good subtitles.
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on 9 February 2013
This is one of those great movies that sticks with you. It is well made and on initial viewing has believable characters, good acting and a plot that works. What makes this movie so great is that it works on several levels. When I initially viewed it, I though of it as a good film. After a couple of hours, I started to realize that that the film activates a higher level of consciousness and that there are several themes that activated my subconscious. I viewed the film a couple of days ago and still can't get it out my mind. I am going to re-watch it again. Everything about the film moves it from good to full fantastic. The acting is outstanding. If you don't view this film you will be missing one of the great contemporary cinematic treats.

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on 18 April 2013
The lead character, Roman Kogler, in this film is portrayed wearing a deadpan face into which we learn to read his thoughts and emotions as he, at age 19, undergoes the last days before a parole board hearing. Initially he seems ungrateful and insouciant to the support, such as it is, that he gets from his probation officer who gives him advice on getting work and appearing before the board, from youth detention centre staff, who go through the tedious routines of body searches and lock-ups, and the staff of the undertakers where he is lucky o get employment, however grisly, in the few days left before his hearing. As the days go by we seem him acquiring the skills of his fellow workers, and their acceptance - if not respect - of him grows in proportion. The worker who wouldn't on his first day help him tie his tie early in the film is willing to do so later on, but wordlessly and simply by tying his own tie standing behind Kogler . Other reviews have revealed the essentials of the plot, which is a novella rather than a full-blown novel, but the essence of the film is the observation of the protagonist who is largely without dialogue, as he begins to show his humanity despite his care-nothing facade; for example he relaxes when a female traveller of much his own age travels on his train home from work - we see him smile for the first time. The ending is optimistic; we don't know what use he will make of his parole, but the fact he visits the grave of the youth he killed five years earlier (and finds it sadly neglected, and as unvisited as both probably were in their orphanage) suggests he has learned remorse. I rate this film. Rotten Tomatoes gives it 87% and I think that is about right.
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on 8 December 2013
A young man in a juvenile detention centre doesnt get on with anyone and seems to hate the world. He gets offered a job at the morgue where he gets on ok because of course he doesnt have to relate to or interact socially with corpses. I am sure i have heard that plot before but i am not sure where.At one point he has to move a female corpse with the same surname as himself which he thinks might be his mother who gave him up for adoption. Its not but this motivates him to track her down. The film itself is ok, nothing special and certainly nothing like as profound and moving as some bizarrely seem to think. Its not a poor film and is worth a watch but dont expect to be moved or awe struck when you watch it.
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on 8 January 2014
I enjoyed this film. Especially the fleeting train scene. But I felt this film was far too distant. Although there was some equilibrium at the end, it wasn't as vivid as some other films of a similar nature. It could've been an emotionally more engaging film, with more attention to the characters. But perhaps I misread it. It's subtle and well acted regardless.
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on 3 December 2012
This arrived through the post the other day via Love Film. Can't remember putting it on the list to be honest. However watch it I did. A very good film, a steady enough pace with the thread of the story unfolding in a timely manner. Excellent performances from all involved. Would I recommend it to others, yes, mind you if Commando or Predator is as high brow as you like to venture then it might not be your cup of tea.
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on 6 August 2014
A young offender slowly starts to mature as he finds a job with a funeral service which prompts him to search for the mother who abandoned him.
Low-key drama that tells a quiet little story without over dramatization.
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on 5 February 2015
Enjoyable film well worth watching
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