Roman (Schubert) grew up as an orphan and has been in detention for the past four years. Now 19 and on day-release to find a job, his mentor (Liebmann) worries that he'll never be able to sustain a normal life. But it's the new job that begins to get to Roman: he's working for a company that transports human corpses. And as he starts to think about mortality, he decides to track down his birth mother (Kischka) to get some answers about who he really is.
With a beautifully internalised performance, Schubert lets us see into Roman's soul. He quietly submits to a full-body search each time he returns to his prison, and hides from the other inmates while he thinks about his future. Or rather whether he has a future at all. There are moments when his spiky humour and surly stubbornness reveal themselves, as well as a tenacious yearning to make the awkward interaction with his mother mean something. And both Schubert and writer-director Markovics make sure we understand and feel every pang of his emotional journey.
But there isn't a moment in this film that's obvious; Markovics assembles each scene in a matter-of-fact way that relies on the tiniest details to give us the information we need. The filmmaking is subtle and expressive, full-on and unblinking and yet also intriguingly enigmatic. And you could describe the work of the entire cast in the same way. It's mesmerising to watch Roman quietly discover his way in life and find a bit of badly needed confidence, even though everyone in the prison continues to torment him as usual.
Along the way, there are some stunningly moving sequences that draw out the tenderness in characters who are trying to be tough. Markovics proves to be seriously adept at catching moods and telling an involving story without relying on dialog or movie manipulation. So as the plot fills in details and moves forward, he doesn't need sentiment to make us see ourselves in the characters and situations.
Box Office Worldwide: 3
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Director: Karl Markovics
Producer: Dieter Pochlatko, Nikolaus Wisiak
Screenwriter: Karl Markovics
Starring: Thomas Schubert as Roman Kogler, Karin Lischka as Margit Kogler, Georg Friedrich as Rudolf Kienast, Gerhard Liebmann as Walter Fakler, Stefan Matousch as Gerhard Schorn, Luna Mijovic as Mona, Georg Veitl as Jürgen Hefor, Klaus Rott as Leopold Wesnik
Also starring: Karl Markovics