Der Bunker (The Bunker) is the debut feature from German writer, director and producer Nikias Chryssos. The dark comedy is set entirely within a windowless bunker housing a father (David Scheller), a mother (Oona Von Maydell) and their son Klaus (Daniel Fripan), supposedly 8 years old. A solitary man walks through a snowy deserted forest looking for his rental with a lakeview, hoping for peace and quiet in which to think and write. However as he arrives at the family’s bunker, he suspects that he has arrived at the airbnb from hell…
The lakeview turns out to be a small picture pinned to the wall of the windowless concrete low-ceilinged room. The host washes the newly arrived student’s feet (Pit Bukowski), feeding him dumplings while surreptitiously noting down the quantity consumed. Heinrich, a distant and opinionated booming voice, is directing the family from an open wound on the mother’s leg. Heinrich orders that the student becomes Klaus’ teacher, something which his father has previously done, and Klaus is suddenly exposed to new ideas, time to play and friendship from the hesitant student. This means he no longer accepts the burden and hope his parents have placed on him, as well as their treatment of the man-child he has become and whom they desperately want to decorate and keep control of.
Although styled as a dark comedy, my thoughts kept returning to the many young women who have been held hostage in similar bunkers, from Austrian Fritzl in 2008 to a Swedish doctor just this year. A quick search online unfortunately brings up pages of similar incidents. Hidden away from the world and underground without light or fresh air, abused and dominated, this film is definitely dark, with slight twists that resemble comedy. As Chryssos describes his comedic style, “I want to use humour as a means of anarchy. That’s what some of my favourite comedies do.” It is a twisted tale with a serious message about education and childhood, where the abnormal gradually becomes normal.
Der Bunker won a few awards in 2015 at Austin’s Fantastic Fest, with Daniel Fripan deservedly winning best actor for his role as Klaus.
Henrike Naumann’s costumes, Melanie Raab’s production design and Matthias Reisser’s cinematography turned the abandoned bunker into something looking like a shoot from the magazine Dazed – an eclectically styled and beautifully lit house.
The film is completely compelling as you wonder how bad it is going to get.
Der Bunker is newly released on DVD, BluRay and Vimeo with English subtitles.
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