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Masterful directorial debut by actor Karl Markovics
Karl Markovics had to work hard to escape his signature role as Stockinger, the funny sidekick in the popular TV show "Kommissar Rex". It took a lot of "serious" theater work and the leading role in Stefan Ruzowitzky's Academy Award winning "Die Fälscher" until he finally got the respect he deserved as an actor. Now Markovics goes on to prove his talents extend beyond just acting: "Atmen" is his debut as a writer and director - and he hits the bull's eye on the first try.
Apparently, Markovics has worked on a lot of script ideas over the years, but never deemed any of them good enough to be developed into a movie. Finally his wife convinced him to go through with one of those ideas, and rightfully so. "Atmen" is an artistic triumph. Not only is the script brilliantly written, but it is also flawlessly executed. The direction seems almost effortless, as if Markovics was already an old master. He seems to know intentionally what to show when, he's got a great eye for frames and unagitated pictures, and, an actor himself, he naturally knows how to direct other actors. That's not to take away from the great cast. Veteran stars like Georg Friedrich and Karl Rott don't disappoint, but the focus lies on Thomas Schubert who says a lot with just facial expressions. Obviousl,y the movie's success depended on Schubert's performance and the first time actor lives up to the task. He's a great talent. Hopefully we'll see more of him in the future.
"Atmen" is a touching and believable movie about life and death, tight-lipped, but never boring, bleak, but in the end optimistic. It's very authentic in its depiction of Vienna, its depiction of a boy who hasn't been dealt the best cards in life. And, most of all, it's got its heart in the right place. This really deserves an Oscar win - much more than "Die Fälscher" did, actually.
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