I recently had the opportunity to conduct a quick interview with Nikias Chryssos, writer and director of DER BUNKER. I’d thought I might get a little clarification on some of the more, let us say “obscure” points in the film, but if anything I’m more uncertain now than before (which is, I think, only appropriate for such a movie)! Here’s what Nikias had to say, with a little color commentary by yours truly:
Cheezman (LC): What was your inspiration for this film? Where did the idea come from?
Nikias Chryssos: It was a mixture of character, location, and themes. The starting point was the character of the student, someone who seeks quiet and solitude but faces all kinds of obstacles and is constantly distracted. I liked the idea of someone who thinks he’s smart and who enters a place that’s isolated from the world, some kind of haunted house with characters that might come from a ghost train. When it was clear that the characters he encounters are a weird little family, themes like education and family pressure emerged.
LC: Okay, I got all that from my viewing. Maybe I’m smarter than I thought!
Can you extrapolate on some of the symbolism and imagery in the film?
NC: I think it’s nice that the film leaves many questions open. In general, I guess the bunker world follows its own inner logic. Maybe not everything that happens or can be seen has to be taken literally or at least there might always be another side to the things that are happening.
In that sense, Klaus for example is also an image for someone who’s not allowed to grow up naturally, the bunker place might represent family life but also the hell one goes to when working on a creative work or a thesis, and the silly insisting on learning all the capitals might be a take on an education system that is more concerned with memorization than reflection. But maybe it’s also good to take the things just for what they seem to be – a regular 8-year-old boy and his family.
LC: “But maybe it’s also good to take the things just for what they seem to be.” So the cigar is just a cigar? Okay. But wait. A regular 8-year-old boy? He’s ANYthing but regular! He’s not even a boy!
There at the end, why is the Student still there? Is he a prisoner? Has he chosen to take the place of Klaus?
NC: Maybe he’s a prisoner or the new house slave. Maybe a new family construct is formed. Maybe a new circle starts. Maybe he has finally found his place and is happy that the burden of having to achieve greatness, of having to produce a big, ambitious work has been taken off his shoulders and he can just focus on cleaning the house. I think different viewers will see different things in the ending.
LC: Playing it all a little close to the vest, there, Nikias. Or is it possible even the writer doesn’t know what it all means?! Now that is surrealism!
How did you put together the cast? Was it a long process?
NC: It was very easy this time – I knew all of them before and basically wrote the roles for them. All four often get cast for very different roles but because I know them personally, it was nice to put them in different settings. I think it was also the first time that Daniel Fripan played an 8-year-old.
LC: Regarding that last statement, I would imagine so. Probably gonna be the last time he plays an 8-year-old, too.
Lastly, my favorite question: Was Heinrich real?
NC: Oh, yes. As real as your deepest nightmares!
My nightmares are pretty deep, so Heinrich must be pretty darn real. And then Chryssos included a smileyface emoji. I almost heard a maniacal cackle echoing in my head, punctuated by a clap of thunder.
My review of DER BUNKER is available right here. Check it out. Check out the movie, too, while you’re at it — see if you can glean more from its labyrinthine mosaic of plot and substance than me. Just don’t expect your own cackle and thunderclap. Pretty sure those only happen in my head.
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