Der Bunker is a very unique film. Is it a comedy? Is it a Horror? Is it a drama? I guess these things are all open to interpretation, but one thing that I can say is that it’s a very bizarre, absurd, weird, twisted, eccentric and entertaining piece of German-language cinema. Something that I thoroughly enjoyed watching.
What’s It All About?
A student looking for seclusion to finish his thesis, rents a room from a very odd family living in a bunker deep in a forest. The family consists of a mother, father and son Klaus, who is supposedly only eight years old but looks more like thirty. Although the student does not have much money, the father assures it’s fine and he can make up the money by helping around the house. He is reluctantly recruited to take over the home-tutoring of Klaus so father can spend more time doing chores around the house. Klaus struggles to learn anything as the frustrated student tries to teach, however the more he discovers about Klaus and the family, the more bizarre things turn. The Student wants to try to help Klaus, but the longer he stays and the more involved he becomes, the stranger things begin to get. Student seems to give Klaus a new meaning to life as their bond grows, but not everybody likes this new-found friendship.
This was a very unique film. I have never experienced a film like Der Bunker before that I can even compare it to. Nikias Chryssos has created something completely different. I think this movie is very much open to interpretation, two people can view the movie together each coming out with a completely different take on it.
I think writer/director Nikias Chryssos has given us something completely original. He has managed to carve out a plot that essentially creates its own genre. It is an intelligent script that twists and turns in all kinds of different directions as it freely interweaves itself through our four characters. I had no idea what direction it would take next, start off as rather ordinary it quickly takes a nose dive into the unknown and never looks back.
The story does touch on a lot of themes which are again open to interpretation. The relationship between the Mother and the son Klaus is an interesting one. The story looks at a mother reluctant to relinquish control over he son, not wanting to let him go. This is clear by the breast-feeding, the home-schooling and filling his head with dreams of becoming President of the United States of America. This is even more suggested by the fact Klaus is clearly heading toward thirty and not the eight years old he believes he is. All of these facets are used to help the movie draw towards its conclusion.
We are also treated to some of the more bizarre elements of the movie including an alien warlord called Heinrich who lives in a large open wound in the mothers leg. The mother going to Heinrich to get guidance when she is unsure what to do. Is this some sort of madness? Are we supposed to believe that there is really an alien living in this wound? The weird nature of the movie makes us unsure what to believe and it is left up to the viewer to decide.
Another area of interest I found was the Student as he struggled with his work but after an encounter with Mother somehow manages to find his form and the work flows out of him and papers quickly begin to cover the wall of his windowless room. However on closer inspection his work seems like a lot of scribbles and incoherent drawings stuck on the wall. Are we supposed to believe that he is doing the work he set out to do or is this just a slow decent into a madness that already consumes Mother? Again this is something that is not answered and doesn’t need to be, you can take away from it what you want.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the interactions between Klaus and the Student as he is trying to teach him capital cities. I couldn’t contain my laughter as Klaus seemed to be picking out anything he could this of as an answer to “What is the capital of France?”. The scenes between these two was just one of the many highlights this movie had to offer.
Nikias Chryssos’s story is completely absurd and the more the movie rolls on the more ludicrous it becomes. This eccentric family never fail to surprise and disturb the viewers in equal measure as each layer of family life is peeled away. I have to congratulate Nikias for being brave and bold enough to deliver something so bizarre and unusual for his first full length feature.
The cinematography also matches the high standards of the writing. I thought the film does a great job of capturing the claustrophobic feeling of the bunker, from the low ceilings to the dull lighting, this feeling of being locked in does not go away. Excellent camera placement ensures all the action is expertly captured on-screen. Tight edits only help to build the tension and develop the uncomfortable atmosphere and cramped conditions we feel while watching.
The actual set design is also something to be commended. The sparse and bare-looking environment where the action takes place is a character in itself. The pale color palette and furniture from a lost generation only help to enhance the weirdness of this eccentric family.
Another thing that stands out on-screen is the costume designs. Henrike Naumann has done a superb job of giving the characters a vintage and eccentric look to them. In particular the wonderful wardrobe of Klaus really captures the innocence of the character.
All of the cast were outstanding in this Der Bunker. I feel that the performances by the cast were an essential part of making the film such a good experience to watch. In all of the bizarre circumstances and situations they were put in they all managed to give everything they had.
Pit Bukowski played Student. Pit was a very interesting character and really delved into the psyche of the outsider coming into this strange family. I really felt the awkwardness of the character being thrust into this bizarre situation. I thought that he carried that across on-screen very well. His performance was a shining example of his ability as an actor. As the film progressed he slowly blended into their family.
Daniel Fripan played Klaus. I really enjoyed Daniel’s performance and thought he stood out from the rest of the pack with some scene stealing performances. His interactions with the Student were highlights of the movie for me, the had a great chemistry. Daniel really managed to grasp the innocence of the character in a way that made you believe he was an eight year old child. His mannerisms and attitude were very well played out.
Oona von Maydell played Mother. This was a very strange role but Oona did a fantastic job. I really enjoyed her performance. I thought she was fantastic when speaking with Heinrich through the wound on her leg. Also, as she struggled to let go of her son she gave us a very emotional performance.
David Scheller played Father. David put in a fine performance as the Father. I felt like his character began to fade in the final third of the movie, but his performance was brilliant. He presented us with a very likeable character.
I have no doubt in my mind that this movie isn’t for everyone. It is a film that you will either ‘LOVE’ or ‘HATE’. I loved this film. I have a feeling this is destined to be cult favorite for years to come thanks to a brilliant story and fantastic direction from Nikias Chryssos, an extremely strong cast giving it there all, and a brilliant team behind the scenes. This bizarre film is one that has the ability to grab an audience’s attention no matter what language it is in. I highly recommend this movie to anyone looking for something completely different and ‘out-there’.