Seeking the luxuries of peace and quiet in order to fulfill the work of an important academic theory, a young student rents out the basement of an old bunker converted into a family home. Surrounded by the solitude of snow and trees, the bunker is the perfect place for the student to concentrate on his work. Until the couple renting the bunker basement decides the student must continue the unorthodox home-schooling of their eight-year-old son to put him on the path of becoming the President of the United States. The student becomes mixed up in a peculiar family’s ambitious affair twisted far from normalcy and teetering on the borderline on insanity.
“Der Bunker” is the first feature film from writer-director Nikias Chryssos and Chryssos delivers an artistically abstract film about the modernistic conventional ways of growing up through childhood told through an obsolete perspective. Produced in Germany, the film makes light of how parents raise and shelter their children, especially their sole child. The home setting is literally a bunker, a fallout shelter from the age of war. “Der Bunker” particularly points out the American child raising culture with Klaus, the eight-year-old son of mother and father, going through semi-strict tutoring of memorizing the every nation’s capitals in efforts of becoming, one day, the President of the United States. Chryssos overkills the symbolism column with continuously displaying the staleness of a stuck-in-routine in over-parenting from the outdated 1950’s style of the clothes and retrofitted bunker to the eight-year-old Klaus being depicted by a 30-something actor Daniel Fripan.
Fripan is one of four cast members to star in Chryssos film and the only actor portraying a named character with Klaus, leaving all others generically labeled with father, mother, and the student; however, Klaus and the Student are essentially the same person, a dual presence who start off polar opposites that are trapped inside the bunker and looking to break free from it’s buried confines when their individual identities begin to blur. Fripan’s key to “Der Bunker” working conceptually as the ‘man-child’ with Fripan’s attributed short stature, innocently mature face, and a well-performed immature persona that solidifies the Klaus role as nothing more than child forced to grow externally, but not internally. Pit Bukowski’s more of an automaton when we first meet him wondering through the snowy terrain in search of the bunker. His Student character starts to dwindle as he literally becomes a fixture of the bunker as Klaus starts to shine and thrive in not only his studies but in his maturity, confronting his Mother’s will. Bukowski’s internal switch goes dynamically well with Fripan even though their physical façades remains intact. Mother and Father are portrayed by Oona von Maydell, daughter of “Das Boot’s” Claude-Oliver Rudolph, and David Scheller and both compliment each other by donning an opposite reversal of roles where Mother is the stern, firm hand of the family and Father stays home to clean and be a teacher for Klaus.
Chryssos’ telling of the family and the Student’s psychosexual relationship between the story’s bookends goes above and beyond the Oedipus complex. Oona von Maydell’s Mother has a power fastening all the male characters in an intriguing way despite her minor, yet undesirable, physical deformity plaguing as a patch on her right leg and also despite that her rational stemming from a grave voice, connected to her deformity, comes from beyond their world. As if destined to play the part, Maydell acts the lead as the family’s matriarch while also being subtly coy and provocative to bluntly upfront about her sexuality as a means of control; Maydell seemed very comfortable with her onscreen upper torso nudity in some awkward and uncomfortable scenes. Her onscreen husband, David Scheller, deems himself an academic, an educated man with knowledge more vast than that of the outside world because of this thirst for literature. Yet, Scheller plays a scattered Father whose torn between being a literal mentor, the punisher, and the glue to keep the bunker from being engulfed by giving into Mother’s symbiotic celestial being. Father copes with heavy medication that literally warps his mind when he can’t seem to control everything from the Student’s appetite to his convincing of the Student to take on the tutoring role for Klaus, even if it’s not plainly displayed. Scheller does a remarkable performance breaking down his character to a crumbling lame duck.
“Der Bunker” and the bizarre go hand-in-hand. Only a unique mindset with skewed vision could have pulled together such a twisted dark comedy tale of the mortal coil in holding your children to your hopes and dreams for them. Colorfully unapologetic, “Der Bunker” canisters another world sluggishly revolving through multiple levels of layers of psychosexual and frustrating concepts that flaunts a conventional cinema defiance attitude to establish bold filmmaking possibilities. In short, director Nikias Chryssos shoots high and doesn’t miss with his first run. The Artsploitation Blu-ray release features a vividly clear anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 presentation of the Kataskop Film Production. Audio options include a Dolby Digital German 5.1 Surround sound with very detailed optional English subtitles. An abundant of bonus material is hard to pass up, especially with a director’s commentary and deleted scenes that expand more about the character’s traits and backgrounds. Rounding the extras are outtakes and trailers from Artsploitation film arsenal. This Blu-ray release is meticulously thought out to deliver a high caliber video and sound quality for such as odd German film concerning one youngish boy’s progressional path of self-reliance from a sheltered life style.