In order to study and conduct his research in solitude, young man plans to rent a room in a isolated bunker, turned home, that’s located deep within the forest. When the student arrives he’s greeted by his would-be landlord and his family. There’s something that seems a little off about the family but the young man rents the room all the same. Now, with each passing night, as he becomes more integrated into the family dynamic, the more he begins to understand just how strange his hosts really are.
I was set to review “Observance” from Artsploitation but due to a clerical error (i.e. I can't keep up with what we've reviewed already) it was a film that was covered last year as a part of the Fantasia film festival. My views fall mostly inline with Ronny’s on “Observance” (click here for his review), particular the point that the film might be a bit too obtuse. Then I watched “Der Bunker” — a movie where obtuse doesn’t even been describe the indecipherable nature of the movie.
Perhaps indecipherable is too strong of a word to use when describing Nikias Chryssos’s feature film debut. It is a film that left me scratching my head in the end because I’m not sure what it was all suppose to mean — was it even suppose to mean anything? While I was obviously unclear about the film’s point, I can't ever say I found myself frustrated with it. “Der Bunker” is not something I would deem as abstract since it has a rather traditional structure but rather, it's a movie that builds its functionality off of absurdity.
It would be easy for a film like “Der Bunker” to fly off the rails and to merely come off as random — weird for the sake of weird — because many movies do. Films of that nature tend to lack focus; they’re primary interest is in being eccentric with little to no regard for reason. Not always a bad thing but when they become like that, they lose their direction and can come across as hollow and meaningless. Even though the reasoning in “Der Bunker” might be unclear, a viewer can still see that there was an end point in mind.
And by that I mean that the connections are not always obvious but when new bizarre pieces are added to the already growing absurdity, you can seem them coming together to converge on a single point. In this case, it’s a confrontation between The Student (Pit Bukowski) and his host family — revealing the movie to use a slow boil formula. So while a resolution might not be present, each of the elements are still serving a purpose. The primary reason is to build up tension. It might be hard to imagine but this movie’s use of something as offbeat as a sentient being living inside a person’s leg creates suspense (as well as intrigue). Again though, how does that tie into a stranger teaching a family’s son (who appears to be older than everyone else) geography and basic eduction? I’m not really sure, yet these plot points and how they are used is what drove my interest to keep going.
I don’t mean to harp on the idea that “Der Bunker” didn’t make sense because, at the end of the day, the movie might make complete sense to someone else and the film just went over my head. Or maybe it didn’t. Nikias Chryssos could have simply wanted to make a peculiar movie about a weird family. Then again, maybe Nikias wanted to take concept like Pasolini’s “Teorema” and invert it — instead of a stranger triggering the destruction of a household, the household destroys the stranger. I could be reaching with that last idea but I just don’t know!
What I do know is that “Der Bunker” uses absurdity effectively. For one, the tone never changes — it’s comedic while maintaining a tense and seemingly unpleasant atmosphere. Watching this movie is like being stuck in an awkward, uncomfortable situation where you nervously laugh because you don’t know how else to deal with it. And while the film may not offer any clear answers or reasons (which in itself is not bad) there is still direction in the movie. It’s building towards something and uses odd plot points to escalate the tension.