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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Der Bunker  (2016)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
3 Stars
(Release Date: August 23, 2016) – If 2014's haunting Danish mystery "Borgman" and 2016's taut chamber thriller "10 Cloverfield Lane" had an 8-year-old child in a 30-year-old man's body, it might look a lot like the charmingly, bafflingly bizarre "Der Bunker." This singularly original German import—the feature writing-directing debut of Nikias Chryssos—defies easy genre classification, snubbing its nose at anything resembling convention. What can be assured is Chryssos' ample ability to generate a living, breathing portent. With the narrative so brazenly askew, anything seems possible. Just as surprising is what it thematically transforms into—an idiosyncratically delivered metaphor for the pressures of childhood, the process of taking charge of one's independence, and the ultimate difficulty in letting go.

From out of a snowy forest near Berlin comes a mathematician called simply Student (Pit Bukowski). He has arrived at the door of an underground bunker home where he hopes the solitude will allow him to work on a writing project. Student is taken aback by the oddness of his hosts, Mother (Oona von Maydell) and Father (David Scheller), and their son, Klaus (Daniel Fripan), a grown man who says he's eight years old and acts like it. Frustrated over the lack of progress with his studies, Mother and Father convince Student to play schoolteacher to Klaus. As Student becomes embroiled in the eccentric actions of this family and grows increasingly concerned for Klaus' well-being, he begins to wonder if they have any intention of letting him leave.

Satire, horror and surrealism blur in "Der Bunker," a film of eccentric social mores set in a world resembling a forebodingly charred fairy tale. In addition to the sad-eyed Klaus, being groomed to one day become President of the United States, there are a stream of disconcerting grotesqueries on display. Mother's relationship with Klaus is inappropriate to say the least. Father dresses like a party clown and holds joke nights. And then there's Heinrich, a demonic voice living inside the open gash on Mother's leg. Meanwhile, the crimson glow sweeping across the claustrophobic bunker begins to resemble an invasion from the trenches of Hell. Perhaps, in the end, "Der Bunker" doesn't go far enough with its payoff to match the script's unique ambitions, but the picture excites by constantly evading norms of decency and expectation.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"Der Bunker" superbly handles its story's every ominous flourish with an impressive 1080p transfer. Opening with beautiful yet somehow foreboding exteriors of a forest blanketed in a heavy layer of snow, cinematographer Matthias Reisser's lensing draws the viewer down a literal path headed for the unknown. Once inside the bunker of the title, the film's detailed intimacy and dramatic shifts in color and tone add to the chilly imagery. Black levels are deep and inky, while signs of banding are kept predominately at bay. Though "Der Bunker" was digitally shot with the Arri Alexa camera, there is a thickness to the image and a grain-like structure that often resembles film. The star of the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is Leonard Petersen's music score, as ambitious and creepily avant-garde as the movie itself. While sonic fireworks cannot be expected from a relatively quiet, dialogue-driven film, the booms of something much more nefarious sets the viewer on edge while sweeping across the soundfield. Dialogue is well-centered and concentrated within the mix. Of special note: "Der Bunker" is in German with, peculiarly, only English SDH subtitles that includes closed captioning for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

Blu-ray Features
  • Audio Commentary with writer-director Nikias Chryssos
  • Deleted Scenes (19:59, HD)
Bottom Line
Artsploitation Films' "Der Bunker" is one of the most unexpected finds of 2016, an eccentric, unsettling original making its U.S. premiere with this excellent Blu-ray release. High-def picture quality and lossless audio are uniformly strong, while a filmmaker's commentary adds shading and insight to the picture's creation and intentions. If you've never heard of "Der Bunker" but are a fan of offbeat, adventurous cinema along the lines of David Lynch ("Twin Peaks," "Mulholland Drive") and Yorgos Lanthimos ("Dogtooth"), this one is for you. Highly recommended.

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© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman


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