DER BUNKER [Dead by Dawn]

PrintE-mail Written by Andrew Marshall

A nameless student rents a room in a remote forest bunker so he can remove himself from the distractions of real life and concentrate on his studies and work. However, the family who live in the underground fortress soon prove to be as detached from the real world as their home, and before long he becomes hopelessly lost in an incomprehensible world driven by incomprehensible rules, warped egos and psychosexual games.

The Father believes himself to be far more intelligent than he actually is, a shortcoming only highlighted by his determination to prove it, whether to others or himself. His attempt to intellectually deconstruct a basic joke and ascribe meandering significance to every invented nuance actually makes you cringe. The Mother exists in apparent thrall to the mysterious Heinrich, who is only heard as a sinister and sibilant voice echoing seemingly from thin air. Then there’s Klaus, the couple’s eight-year-old son who is quite clearly a grown man – albeit a very short one – wearing children’s clothes (a discrepancy which is never even addressed) and who the Student becomes an unwilling tutor, too.

Nothing that happens in Der Bunker makes the slightest bit of sense and unapologetically offers no explanations. In fact, the only acknowledgment of such is the perpetual look of bemusement on the Student’s face as he is presented with another in a litany of incredulities as if he is the only one capable of perceiving just how utterly ridiculous it all is.

The set appears deliberately artificial and practically comes across like a live-action cartoon, a jet-black Looney Tune pulled from the mind of Sigmund Freud. Its spartan utilitarian design is relieved with the occasional splash of colour that emphasises its pointedly synthetic aesthetic, creating its own feigned perception of reality in its self-contained world, matching the nature of the bizarre characters who could not possibly exist anywhere else.

Amidst its relentless bizarreness, Der Bunker also has some comments to make about the inherently counter-intuitive education strategy of learning by rote, teaching children to retain facts required to pass exams without any reflection on the information being absorbed or incentive to retain it once its required academic purpose has expired. It also comments on the uptight nature of parents who are so set on conforming to societal norms that they become incapable of realising just how utterly screwed up they are, fostering unrealistic expectations on their children that allow them to live vicariously through their offspring’s potential success.

Der Bunker is gloriously demented and hilariously bizarre look at worryingly yet hilariously dysfunctional family and their perception of the outside world they can barely even remember. Driven by social commentary mixed with surreal black humour, it makes you question just how twisted you are for laughing all the while.


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