This family of three lives in a bunker out in the wintry forest in the middle of nowhere, the perfect place for a student to conduct his research in peace. Or that's the idea this student (Pit Bukowski) has, trudging through the snow to the front door of the mostly underground building and welcomed in by the father (David Scheller) to meet his wife (Oona von Maydell) and their son, Klaus (Daniel Fripan), who needs help with his schooling. At first everyone is very polite, and though the student doesn't have quite enough money on him for rent, the father tells him he can easily make it up by carrying out jobs around the house, but as the days go by he becomes more insistent about one task in particular...
It was safe to say the writer and director of Der Bunker, Nikias Chryssos, had some reservations about parenting on the evidence of his, his first feature length effort after a bunch of short works. Under his withering glare, the feeling that you got when you visited a friend's house as a child and realised that not everyone conducted family life as your family did was very much in evidence, although that sensation gave rise to the uncomfortable question that either you or they were the weirdos in this situation. Strangely, the notion that neither of you were the weirdos, there was simply a varying approach to life even in the same street, never appeared to arise, and so it was here.
Chryssos was firmly on the side of other people being the oddballs, as demonstrated in the extremely eccentric manner the bunker clan go about their days. Obviously this was exaggerated for effect, be that to amuse or unsettle, but that sense of claustrophobia when stuck with a bunch of folks you would not normally be in such a close proximity to was another aspect this brought up, as initially we are on the side of the student (Bukowski evidently taking a liking to weirdo cinema after his title role in Der Samurai). However, when we see what his studies take the form of, we begin to think that he is not the full shilling either, leaving us adrift in a sea of curiosity and perturbing situations.
For a start, when we are introduced to little Klaus, we notice he may be little in stature but he's not little in years, indeed he looks about the same age as his "mother" who has not given up breastfeeding him in a development that apparently was a tribute to Andrea Bianchi's trash horror notoriety Burial Ground, because, er, well, who knows? Maybe Chryssos thought it was funny. But the bizarre elements did not end there, as the mother seems to be possessed, or her right leg is anyway where she sports a wound that she claims is of cosmic provenance, and speaks to her in a distorted voice to tell her what to do. Even the student has his quirks, supposedly working on the Higgs boson but his methodology leaves a lot to be desired, yet we can sympathise when he is channelled away from it to teach Klaus.
Here is where the film demonstrated its issues with child rearing, as Klaus is a hopeless pupil, and nothing short of cheating can make him pass for knowledgeable in the eyes of his parents, who plan for him to become President of the United States of America when he grows up. Except he is grown up, as seen when he tries to squeeze into his pyjamas every night which in one of many exacting details he has patently worn for years, ever since he was an actual child. The student discovers, at the father's encouragement, that Klaus can only learn when there is the threat of physical pain, so debases himself by caning the manchild which in uneasy scenes has the desired effect - except that now he is learning, he is also maturing, and starts to need his parents less which they have trouble coping with, to put it mildly. With all this building to more violence in a rather predictable fashion (it's the weirdo movie's fall-back position), Der Bunker was reminiscent of a very low budget but well realised Yorgos Lanthimos movie, it had that same deadpan perversity and cold gaze. Not all that funny, though, if indeed humour was the goal.