Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
CIFF ’16: Der Bunker
are maybe sort of like garrets, but darker and even less spacious. It was not the sort
of living quarters a socially withdrawn student had in mind, but he accepts it
anyway, because he is not good with conflict. That is how he finds himself tutoring
the overgrown child of an alarmingly controlling couple in
screenwriter-director Nikias Chryssos’ Der
Bunker (clip here), which screens during the 2016 Cleveland International Film Festival.
the promised lake view was a bit of a bait and switch. The Father is also
rather cagey about all the incidentals he starts charging to the Student’s
account. However, the couple will forgive all of his debts if he starts
tutoring their son Klaus (who looks like he is pushing fifty, but is played by
the thirtysomething Daniel Fripan). Frankly, Father is not so crazy about the arrangement,
but Mother insists. After all, it was suggested to her by Heinrich, the
disembodied alien supervillain who communicates through the infected gash on
her leg. Look, you’d listen to him too.
comes to learning, Klaus is a hard case. Of course, the Student is not exactly
the Miracle-Worker when it comes to teaching. However, he finds the
conveniently placed rod is an effective motivator.
not get much more twisted than Der Bunker,
but it is well served by its Teutonic restraint. All of its wild excesses, like
the thirty-ish Klaus who still breast-feeds, are presented so matter-of-factly,
it never feels like Chryssos is trying too hard for transgressive shocks. He
has a fine eye for mise-en-scene detail and steadily cranks up the
claustrophobic tension. However, some bits he leaves frustratingly
under-developed, like just what is the dealio with Heinrich.
Bukowski (from Der Samurai) is appropriately
blond and painfully reserved as the student. Fripan plays Klaus’s arrested
development to the hilt, but also finds pathos in the deeply stunted man-child.
Oona von Maydell is just indescribably nuts as Mother, while David Scheller’s Father
most closely approximates a sleazy, mentally-abusive game-playing stock
character, but he is still pretty unsettling.
Greek-German, the last year of Eurozone angst must have been strange for Chryssos
to observe. Of course, the film’s German identity adds further layers of creepy
significance to its themes of control and submission to authority. It is a very
eccentric film, but earns the unique niche it carves out in the cult film world.
An unnerving trip in the best possible sense, Der Bunker screens Tuesday (4/5) and Wednesday (4/6) as part of
this year’s Cleveland International Film Festival.
Labels: CIFF '16, German Cinema