by Nic Ho Chee
Der Samurai (The Samurai) is a surreal modern fantasy tale written and directed by Till Kleinert, which follows a young Police Officer, Jakob (Michel Diercks) and a flame haired cross-dressing sword demon (Pit Bukowski.) Set in an almost idyllic viridian German hamlet, the Officer trudges daily into the treeline with a bag of butcher’s tailings, which form part of an opaque strategy to keep a wolf away from his beat. Rather than keep a beast at bay, his bloody sacrifices and mental state call something horrible from the deep dark woods.
The opening scenes show him diligently going about his work until he finds a package that he chooses to carriage to a person unknown, labelled simply as the “lonely wolf.” In a dilapidated house he finds the initially morally ambiguous eponymous anti-hero clad in a white shift, in mid-application of makeup. He soon discovers that he has delivered a katana, a sword usually wielded by Samurai, to a fey being that will later use it to wreak havoc through the town.
The feral anti-hero has an air of the inhuman about him as he urges Jakob to follow him into the story. What begin as acts of vandalism and a canine beheading lead to massacres, a cruel bonfire and a life changing decision at the climax to the film.
The film is beautifully shot, with a simple and effective score, which accentuates the isolation of Jakob as he tries to deal with the Samurai. When moments of intensity begin, the sound design coalesces as though wrapping the main characters’ actions in sound. A good example is how the audio segues between the Samurai laughing, Jakob’s head hitting the macadam and the filtered clang of the katana across concrete. It all lines up well, adding to the experience.
I enjoyed watching this film; it has a couple of odd notes, but is suitably enthralling otherwise. The story remained full of ambiguities as the closing credits ran, I was left unsure whether the Samurai was a part of Jakob, something he accidentally summoned with an unwitting blood sacrifice or a Machiavellian shape-changer, which audio cues and a sudden disappearance hinted at. What I’m more sure about is that this cut could become an instant modern cult-classic along the lines of Chan Park-Wook’s Oldboy or Takashi Miike’s Ichi The Killer. Like them, the dream-like story, controlled violence, sound design and shot decisions mesh into something suitably visceral and eminently watchable.