A young man who has developed an awareness of death wants to learn the secret history of his own life in this drama. Nineteen-year-old Roman Kogler (Thomas Schubert) has spent four years in a detention center for teens after being implicated in the death of another boy. Roman is thoughtful but withdrawn, making few friends with his fellow inmates and keeping his distance from the chaos that surrounds him. Roman's parole officer (Gerhard Liebmann) is trying to prepare him for his eventual freedom, and has made several efforts to place him in a work-release program, but Roman has a hard time readjusting to the outside world and getting along with others. Running out of opportunities, Roman is given a position at a mortuary, helping move and prepare recently arrived corpses, and while it doesn't seem to be a job that would agree with anyone, Roman unexpectedly bonds with his stern and sometimes contrary co-workers, and comes to respect the importance of their work. One day, Roman has to help with the body of a middle-aged woman named Kogler, and he begins to wonder if she's the woman who gave him up for adoption when he was an infant. While Roman's research soon confirms the woman was no relation to him, it sparks a keen interest in finding out more about the mother he's never known. Atmen (aka Breathing) was the first directorial credit for respected Austrian actor Karl Markovics; the film received its world premiere at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival as part of the Directors' Fortnight program.
by Mark Deming synopsis