When it comes to quirky films, few directors can pull them off with finesse and ease. Many times, such movies are not written well, therefore they fall flat and just wind up in mediocrity-hell. But every now and then, a film comes along that surprises and entertains, yet still falls a bit short of being great. This is the state in which I have to categorize DER BUNKER. While I found it fun and entertaining for the most part, I felt a pang of disappointment as the film ended; not because it was over, but because so much was left unfinished. The result has left me on the fence about my perception of the movie and how to describe it.
If you are not familiar with DER BUNKER, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Artsploitation Films:
With his surrealistic and dark, yet strangely heart-warming approach towards an unusual family’s world, DER BUNKER’s director, Nikias Chryssos, may well be the nephew of John Waters and the illegitimate son of David Lynch and Luis Buñuel. A student rents a windowless room in a bunker home nestled deep within a forest. Here, instead of finding tranquility for his studies, the young man becomes increasingly involved in the dramas of his landlord’s family. They include the stern father, his wife (whose swollen leg almost takes a life of its own) and their precocious 8-year-old son Klaus who, despite being German and “learning-challenged,” is being home-groomed to become the President of the United States. Initially friendly and welcoming, the situation becomes increasingly bizarre. A funny, visually arresting and a bit unsettling modern fairy tale.
I hate to say anything negative about this film, as it has a lot of heart and intelligence. But in the end, I watch films for entertainment and do NOT base my opinions on artistic merit. I know some reviewers put stock into that, but I do not for the most part.
DER BUNKER is shot very well and looks great onscreen. I like how “homey” the underground dwelling is made to look; in many scenes, you cannot tell the family is underground at all.
The acting is great, with Daniel Fripan stealing the show as Klaus, the 8-year old who is being groomed for our next President. Fripan is actually a 30+ year-old man, and he definitely looks it. The absurdity of such a casting choice is perfect here, and it makes the ridiculousness of the plot even more fun. Fripan is joined by Pit Bukowski, who portrays his “mentor”. I previously saw Bukowski in DER SAMURAI, another Artsploitation feature. Bukowski once again does a fantastic job with his role.
The story in DER BUNKER is where I have issues. Granted, films of this nature don’t have to have much of a plot per se to be fun…but this one actually opens several subplots that it never finishes. If such effort is going to be put into them (as you will see), I feel like I need to have more information to finish them out. Instead, we are left hanging. **SPOILER ALERT** (stop reading here if you do not want to know plot-points). For example, the alien living in Klaus’ mom’s leg is never fleshed out (sorry for the pun), nor is anything ever explained about it. Why even bring it up? Also, the ending is too bizarre for me. Why do Klaus’ mom and dad not go after him? What 8-year old boy can fend for himself in the world?
But with these issues aside, I did enjoy DER BUNKER overall, so I suppose I can recommend it. If you’re looking for sensibility, however, I would step past this one. Otherwise, strap on your crash-helmet and settle in for a weird ride.