REVIEW: Der Bunker
– By Dave Dubrow
While Der Bunker doesn’t qualify as a horror movie under any definition of the genre, it’s still an extraordinary piece of filmmaking. More a black comedy than anything else, the mild handicap of having to read the English subtitles doesn’t lessen the humor one whit. There are parts you’ll snicker at, smirk at, even laugh aloud watching, even as you squirm in discomfort. It keeps you off-balance, and just when you anticipate the next move, it still surprises you with its cleverness.
The opening shot of a man, known only as Student, bumbling around a snowy forest with a map, a suitcase, and a take-out beverage cup sets the stage for a level of absurdity that ranges from subtle to shocking throughout the film. Later, as we meet the only other three characters, Father, Mother, and Klaus, we find that the bizarre family dynamics go deeper than the surface strangeness, including what’s beneath the bandage on Mother’s swollen leg (I’m a sucker for movies with swollen legs).
If all the performances are pitch-perfect, the stand-out has to be Daniel Fripan’s portrayal of Klaus, Mother and Father’s only child. Though he claims to be only eight years old, Klaus looks far older, and this disturbing disconnect gets stranger when we learn that Father intends for Klaus to become the President of the United States (Article 2, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution notwithstanding). Klaus is not the sharpest pencil in the box, though it’s unclear if this is a function of his unfortunate family situation or a congenital condition. Fripan invests humanity into the pathetic figure of Klaus, with his horrible Dutch-boy haircut and yellow stockings, turning him into a character rather than a caricature.
The movie tackles many themes: parental expectations for their children, creeping normality, insanity in a beloved authority figure, and others. Once you accept one bizarre element, the rest become very easy to swallow, a process that the bunker’s solitude encourages in both the character of Student and the audience.
Like all comedy, you’ll either find it funny or you won’t. I’m reasonably certain, however, that you probably haven’t seen anything else quite like it. I’ve kept this review brief because I don’t want to ruin the experience for you: you should click away to watch Der Bunker as soon as you can. Then click back and tell us what you think at The Slaughtered Bird.
– By Dave Dubrow