It is 4:43 AM on a Thursday morning, and I have just finished watching the film DER BUNKER. I want to write this review now, immediately after the viewing, so that all my thoughts, my feelings, are fresh, sorta like a wound that’s still bleeding, still CLEAN. I don’t want to wait to give it a chance to crust over. Somehow this approach seems appropriate for this particular film.
What is DER BUNKER about? Might as well ask me to define “being.” It’s everything—except “being” itself, of course. (Yes, this is based on an exchange in the film. No, I don’t really know what it means. Not yet. Maybe not ever. That remains to be seen.) DER BUNKER is the story of a family. There is the father (David Scheller); the mother (Oona von Maydell), who somehow manages the seemingly impossible feat of being both sexy and repulsive at the same time; and their son, Klaus (Daniel Fripan)—at least we are told he is their son; you can’t really be certain. You can’t really be certain about ANYthing in this movie. Fripan looks like Mads Mikkelsen from the TV series HANNIBAL with a blonde Jim Carrey DUMB AND DUMBER haircut, and he’s supposed to be eight years old though he’s obviously a grown man. Or is he an adult actor portraying a child? Is he supposed to be physically stunted as well as mentally deficient?
He LOOKS physically stunted. Or is that just the effect of the too small little boy clothes he is dressed in? Hell, I don’t know. I don’t know anything by the point in the movie when I am introduced to this family, and I’m not sure I know much more about them NOW.
Oh, and then there is Heinrich, who quickly became my favorite character. Heinrich is an intelligence from a far-off galaxy who lives inside the open wound on the Mother’s leg. (His presence has a bit to do with that earlier-mentioned repulsiveness exuded by the otherwise sexy Mother. A bit, but you can’t blame him for all of it.) Or does Heinrich even exist? Is the Mother just crazy, and her speaking in a bizarre demonic voice merely an affectation meant to give Heinrich the illusion of life? Again, I don’t know.
The last member of the cast is The Student (Pit Bukowski), the young man who comes to stay with the family in their home in a bunker in the middle of the woods, because he needs solitude and quiet for his “studies.” Something to do with quantum physics, I think—yet again, I can’t say for sure. The Student becomes Klaus’s tutor, helping him memorize the capitals of various countries around the world. Such things are important for Klaus to know, since he is destined to be President.
That’s President OF THE UNITED STATES. Even though he is German. And a mentally defective man-boy. (Actually, thinking of this elections republican nominee, this latter need not exclude him.) Heinrich only knows how he will manage this, but the parents don’t seem overly concerned with it, so whatever.
The Student starts out being as abusive to Klaus in his efforts to educate him as are the father and the Mother, but slowly he begins to form a bond with the little kid who may be older than he is.
I’m gonna leave this off right here. If I tell you any more it’ll require a spoiler warning. All I will say is, the acting is top-notch and the film is damned effective. At what I’m not certain, but it’s effective. I would recommend anyone watching the movie to go in blind, like I did. Don’t read up on it ahead of time, and don’t bother trying to figure it out as you view it. Just let yourself EXPERIENCE it. Maybe, after it has some time to gestate in your brain, things will start to make sense. I’ll let you know if it happens with me.
I cannot honestly say that I ENJOYED this film. But, as was the case that time a few years back when a friend took me to an opera, I am able to APPRECIATE it as the screwball piece of Art that it is. This is one weird movie, folks. But I can’t escape the feeling that I have experienced something. I can’t put a title to it, but something substantive.
Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay to writer/director Nikias Chryssos and the cast of DER BUNKER is that I found myself, whilst alternately swimming and drowning in all the oddness of the film—and this came as a complete surprise to me as I realized it—I found myself caring what happened to The Student and Klaus by the end. I haven’t the foggiest idea at what point that happened, or how. And this last is also, I think, like my earlier fresh wound analogy, appropriate for this movie.
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