Jakob (Michel Diercks) is a young policeman in this tiny German village who none of the locals take seriously, much to his embarrassment. He's infamous around the area for his lack of gumption, preferring to go off on his own little errands rather than whip out his gun and slap on the handcuffs, as today when reports of a wolf in the region has led him to hang flimsy bags of meat on a certain tree for the beast to devour instead of helping itself to livestock or pets. But when he interviews a woman who is concerned about the howls she heard the other night, he begins to wonder if there is not more to the unexpected visitor than he suspected - and there will be another unexpected element to his day.
What commences as a werewolf yarn turned into something quite bizarre in director Till Kleinert's low budget horror, his first feature (though it's barely an hour and twenty minutes long) after a run of short works over the preceding number of years. It was just offbeat enough to lodge in the minds of those who caught it, whether at its festival engagements or later when it was released on disc and on streaming video, even if it tended to baffle many of the viewers who had opted to give it a go. That appeared to be partly the intent: Kleinert made indications that he wanted to make a modern day fairytale, which may have you thinking of Company of Wolves, when it seemed The Hitcher was more his influence.
But don't go thinking it was retro eighties time once again, because with its consideration of gender identity couched in a bloody thriller context Der Samurai was up to date for the point it was making waves. The lead character Jakob may be homosexual, then again he may not be, it's not as if he hasn't made up his mind it's more that he's never had the opportunity to settle on anyone sexually or romantically and the drama capitalised on this strange tension throughout. Much of that was down to his nemesis, who may be his alter ego or may represent something more akin to the temptation to allow himself to let go, whether that be letting his hair down or actually getting forceful to the point of violence.
The Samurai of the title was played by Pit Bukowski in an arresting performance, not to say arrested (by the cops) too, who as well as being Jakob's other self may be the human version of the roaming wolf. Our confused hero meets the stranger when he is asked to deliver a long package for him, and we can guess what's inside by the name of the film, so it's no surprise to see this is a samurai sword he drops off. What's more of a surprise is that this man is wearing a long, white gown and is essentially a transvestite, though what that had to do with a Japanese warrior was another conundrum this brought up, and it doesn't end there, as he has no mission other than to make life as difficult as possible for Jakob as he can - the babyfaced lawman may be the only person capable of stopping him.
It assuredly seems so when the Samurai, who can pull off a vanishing act at will, or perhaps he's an escapologist in addition to his swordplay techniques, kicks off a campaign of terror, first beheading the dog of the old woman we saw at the beginning, then graduating to smashing up a whole street while the inhabitants cower inside, all with the same trickster sensibility that infuses the entire movie. When he encounters the biker gang who make Jakob's life a misery as they push him around, you can view the Samurai as a spirit of vengeance on the bullies of the world, particularly in light of how he deals with them, yet there are other aspects which do not marry up with Jakob at all, specifically that there is no way on Earth he would ever kill anyone, whether out of anger or in the line of duty. Therefore it is a matter of watching to see if he will be corrupted by this night, or whether that corruption is actually an incredible liberation; it sounds like this should be surreal, but Kleinert kept a delicate balance between what may be real and what isn't that was absorbing and disorienting. Music by Conrad Oleak.