Non-professional actor Thomas Schubert excells as Roman Kogler, a sullen youth in a juvenile detention centre who must succeed in his new day-release job as an undertaker in order to win parole. Having spent his life in care, Kogler is unused to the outside world and finds the experience intense, not least when hauling bodies to the city morgue. It’s hard to say who exercises greater restraint – Schubert, whose performance is all the more engrossing for its economy, or actor-turned-director Karl Markovics (The Counterfeiters), whose observational direction makes a little go a very long way.
A story that could have been bleak or full of clichéd philosophising on the meaning of life is, in Markovics’ hands, a captivating and tender human drama. What really elevates it above mere beauty, though, is a scene in which Kogler unexpectedly has to assist with the washing and dressing of the deceased: perhaps one of the last taboos in both film and life, death can still be shocking. [Jac Mantle]