Breathing.

A surrogate womb.

It must be quite fascinating to be a writer, someone capable of creating a story and putting together a screen play that you eventually see in a darkened theatre up on a large screen surrounded by other appreciative people. Where do the ideas come from? I saw a documentary some weeks back about the author Ian Rankin who told us how he set about and planned the new Rebus novel, its so interesting how an author’s mind works!  But the interview with the debut director of Breathing(2011) Karl Markovics, who you may have seen as Salomon Sorowitsch in Stefan Ruzowitzky’s 2007 film The Counterfeiters, was particularly enlightening. He told us that he had been a writer for best part of his life and that the ideas are always triggered by an image that appears in his head. With Breathingit was the image of an old lady laying dead on her living room floor, with a young man who says nothing, eventually appearing in the same image. Markovics knew at this stage that the old women had died of old age and had not been murdered or killed and that the story develops and involves ordinary hard working people, in this case mortuary workers! It’s this story that Markovics eventually turns into an emotionally tender movie.

Kogler takes his chance in the Vienna City Morgue.

Nineteen year old Roman Kogler has been institutionalised all his life, first a children’s home and now a detention centre where he is serving time for killing another lad when he was fourteen. With his parole hearing coming in up Roman realises that he will need to secure a job and keep it to stand any chance of getting out of prison. He finally secures work in Vienna’s city morgue where at first it seems he has swopped bullying prison wardens for bullying co-workers. It’s not until Roman has to assist with the dressing of a naked corpse of an elderly women in her bedroom while her traumatised daughter-in-law wait’s outside that he realises the worth of his job and his new colleagues. Central to the complexity of the story is the large prison swimming pool that Roman uses most days which seems to offer the safety and warmth of a surrogate womb. While at work one day he comes across the body of a woman with the same surname as his own, he then decides to seek out the mother that abandoned him at birth and to find out the reasons she so readily gave him up.

Will Kogler eventually find out the truth?

The film stars first time actor Thomas Schubert who from 200 auditioning 18 year olds won the part of Roman Kogler. His confidence is self-evident and his realistic approach to the part does him and the director great credit. Between Markovics and his DOP Martin Gschlacht there is not a line of dialogue or an image wasted, keeping this superbly produced piece of work very solid, putting the directors theatrical background to good use. I really can’t recommend this film more, it references the British modern reality scene of Lynne Ramsey’s Ratcatcher (1999) and Andrea Arnolds Fish Tank (2009) and cross-fertilizes them with the cinema of Michael Haneke, I was sincerely surprised how impressive this directorial debut was. A compassionate slice of social realism that is well worth adding to your rental list.