New Directors/New Films: Breathing 


Directed by Karl Markovics
Thursday, March 29 at MoMA; Saturday, March 31 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center as part of New Directors/New Films

The corpses in Breathing bothered me at first. They're female, lying in sundry apartments, their heads low and their breasts high as they wait to be carried off. But then I considered how they're being shown through the point of view of Roman (Thomas Schubert), a teenage member of the morgue crew, who seems pretty bothered by them himself. It's probably not that he's distressed by dead people—we know he's seen those before. But these could very well be the first times he's encountered naked women in his life.

Thinking about life while dealing with death—the whole of Karl Markovics's debut feature (the top prizewinner at last year's Sao Paulo International Film Festival) seems to inhabit this middle point. Roman's attending to the dead as part of his parole for assaulting another young man who later died in the hospital, years before. He's sometimes let out to roam the city alone during the day, but has to ride back through the forest, to the high, cold walls of the juvenile detention center, where he'll sleep guarded each night.

"You grew up in an orphanage, right? You've never really been outside," someone says to him. As he travels through new landscapes (a living room, a train station, an Ikea), meeting his family members, new people and, perhaps, even a girl, his wide eyes survey what the outside might be like. The boy and his environments regard each other, as though feeling out in which one he fits best. There is no closure yet, no resolution yet, yet there is a yet. Adolescence can be a prison, but if we're lucky then someday we get to grow up.


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