24 Sep 2016

The Bunker / Der Bunker (Nikias Chryssos, 2015)


Once the credits roll (and afterwards), you will most probably be left with scratching your head, while wondering: "What the glorious hell did I just watch?" Weird as a deified, demon-voiced entity called Heinrich, Nikias Chryssos's feature debut seems like an answer to a question no one has ever asked: "If some wunderkind with a Lynch's mindset and a penchant for campy art had been tasked with making a film on both education and dysfunctional family, what would have resulted from his wild experiment?"

The titular location deep in the snow-covered woods is the home of one of the most 'merkwürdig' nuclear families to be ever put on screen. For a concrete structure associated with war, it is lit quite nicely and beautifully decorated, if a bit creepy retro-chic is your cup of bitter tea (kudos to production designer Melanie Raab). Its colorful interiors are complemented by equally queer outfits of its inhabitants - 8 year old Klaus (played by 1984-born Daniel Fripan), the Father (David Scheller) and the Mother (Oona von Maydell).


The aforementioned man-child is being prepared to enter the White House one day, but he's failing to learn the most elementary lessons. (This could be a poke at certain Austrian bodybuilder's governance over California.) Following the arrival of the Student, who has been seeking after a quiet place to work, is the "little one's" improvement, as well as the antics of the most nebulous, yet not-without-a-meaning kind.

Without spoiling too much, one might say that having a wound-residing alien as the adviser is not the best idea, although it is mandatory for a twisted joke to work. But, is there something more than the rug-pulling gimmicks in The Bunker? Well, firstly there's the obvious and it is the inclusion of many story-moving dichotomies - parent vs child, work vs play, pain vs pleasure, reward vs punishment, masculine vs feminine, keeping vs letting go, dependence vs independence. Secondly, it is the irrational, almost Kafkaesque atmosphere that draws you in and doesn't let you go until the (ironically?) anticlimacting finale.

Also worth mentioning are the superb performances of the ensemble cast, especially by Fripan, whose childlike mannerisms are unparalleled. And let's not forget Bukowski (Der Samurai), who turns the ostensibly as-normal-as-scholars-can-be character into a weirdo. Matthias Reisser's cinematography is yet another reason for giving this film a chance, even though its pacing is not pitch-perfect.

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