It is not often that cruelty and camp have been so sublimely interwoven as occurs in writer/director Nikias Chryssos's masterful and nearly indescribable film Der Bunker, a film accurately marketed as "surrealistic yet strangely heartwarming" and a "funny and bizarre modern fairytale." In the film, a student rents a room in a bunker home and becomes woven into the fabric of the landlord's bizarre dramas and family pecularities including a rather precocious 8-year-old who, despite being German and "learning challenged," is being home-groomed to become the President of the United States.
No, his name isn't Donald.
Der Bunker also benefits from a better than expected package of extras from Artsploitation including:
- Deleted Scenes (w/English Subtitles)
- Outtakes (w/English Subtitles)
- Artsploitation Film Trailers
- Director's Commentary
- Audio Commentary
Der Bunker is a difficult to describe film, dark domestic satire meeting even darker family-tinged horror with an abundance, and I mean a surprising abundance, of humor that fits the tone of the film perfectly and is managed beautifully by Chryssos. I would dare to call Der Bunker one of the best truly dark horror-tinged comedies I've seen, a demented piece of cinema that may or may not actually realize it's demented.
Pit Bukowski, whom I want to meet solely on the basis of his name, is absolutely sublime as the student in question, whose effort to find a quiet place to finish up work on his physics thesis is about to be thrown a curve ball here. David Scheller is wonderful as the ultra-controlling Vater, while Oona von Maydell's turn as Mutter is disturbingly perfect. Klaus (Daniel Fripan) is said to be their eight-year-old son, though he's in a 30-year-old's body.
Trust me, it gets weirder and weirder.
To counter the film's weirdness, Melanie Raab's production design is sort of a incestuous 50's retro with stylings both serenely normal and uncomfortably awkward. Leonard Petersen's original music is the perfect companion to the film, while Matthias Reisser's lensing perfectly captures this world where absurdity meets camp meets horror meets warmth.
I can't. I just can't describe it. Trust me, it works.
The film's ensemble cast is stellar across the board, though one can't help but be in awe of Daniel Fripan's completely off-kilter yet strangely sweet performance as Klaus, a young boy trapped in an absurd world. Fripan plays Klaus surprisingly straightforward and it's a remarkably effective and memorable performance.
Der Bunker experienced quite a bit of success on the festival circuit including picking up prizes at Fantastic Fest (Best Picture), Fantaspoa International Fantastic Film Festival (Best Actor for Fripan - International Film), Ithaca International Fantastic Film Festival (Best Director), La Mano Fest (Best Feature Film) and a host of others.
While I frequently prefer streaming links for my reviews, after watching Der Bunker on a screening Blu-ray I was rather excited to realize that I could immediately turn around and watch it all over again and again and again.
Yeah, it's that good. For more information, visit the Artsploitation Films website linked to in the credits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic