by Mara Norman
Der Bunker is a tightly structured German film set as if it were a modern fairy tale with surrealistic twists. At times claustrophobic. The story begins as a family of three sits at a breakfast table. Classical piano music fills the air. A man speaks a monologue about the perfection of a fried egg sitting on a plate. The woman sitting beside him asks “… and the weather?” “Something’s brewing” he replies. “A storm?”, “I’m afraid so. Yes.” “Let’s hope our guest will find his way.” “He will.”
The next scene shows a hooded man with a covered face wandering across a snowy wooded landscape carrying a small suitcase. He appears lost studying a map. He wanders the forest as the opening credits unfold. Arriving at dusk he walks down a snowy stairway leading to the front of a below ground house. The bunker is illuminated by two porch lights on either side of a red lit door covered by a white barred security door. He enters the burrowed house; inside he inspects the room he will be renting in order to complete his studies in solitude. The grey room is a low ceiling cinderblock wall rectangle, curtains cover non windows, “but no light can get in” the renter states; the landlord responds, “nor can it get out!”
Thus the surreal tale begins the cast of characters, just five: the guest known as student, father, mother, their young son Klaus and the mysterious Heinrich, occupy the story confined within the small home. The story is pulled along with a somber controlled tone, bit by bit revealed with the precision of a ticking clock. Odd repressed communication is held and mirrored by the stationary camera holding the film’s interior scenes in place. The student enters the neatly controlled world of the family living in the bunker. He is soon contracted to teach the young homeschooled Klaus, who appears to be a near grown man who says he is eight years old. Trapped in the oddity of this particular family’s reality the new teacher struggles with his own studies as well as instructing Klaus. Each day a loud school bell rings structuring both Klaus and his instructor of when to begin and end their classroom time. This is a story that explores hidden aspects of shared realities and values including education, power, inspiration, intimacy, perfection, punishment and control. Bits of humor dust the surface making it lighter as some of the more creepy aspects of the household are revealed. The story is infused by impeccable sets and use of color; the filmmaking and acting itself nearly flawless in its approach. This is the director’s feature debut but shows the attention to detail that most first films miss. This film is distributed by Artsploitation Films their tag line being “International films with an edge”; fans of this distributor will not be disappointed.
Der Bunker plays Friday, November 6, 11:55 pm; Monday, November 9, 4:00pm; Sie FilmCenter.