Der Bunker by Nikias Chryssos is probably one of the oddest films in this year's Perspektive Deutsches Kino section. It's funny, horrifying, theatrical, abstract, allegorical, and mysterious. It's a Dogtooth-inspired b-movie. And because it was produced in Germany, it also nearly didn't get made, and when it did get made, relied on a micro-budget provided by an eccentric benefactor plus some minor corporate sponsorship. It's a film that proves my theory about German movies, which is: because of the way German film funding works, they will mainly be boring. It might not be your thing, but Der Bunker is not boring.
Here's how it works: almost all Germany's film financing is supplied via the regional TV broadcasters – all the TV channels Bayerischer Rundfunk, SWR, WDR, MDR – they sit on their pots of money, and give out the cash according to a certain set of criteria – the biggest one being that a movie has to be TV-friendly. Chryssos explained the trouble he had with his movies. "There are similar people on the committees, and they have certain tastes. They said the script was too much of a genre-film, too fairytale-like, not rooted in reality enough, too strange – that came from all the broadcasters."
In the end, Chryssos was lucky to find the aging TV producer Hans W. Geissendörfer – creator of legendary Bavarian soap Lindenstraße: "Firstly, he's probably a little bit crazy in a good way. Secondly I know his daughter, who liked my short films. And then we decided to get this film made, one way or another. Without the broadcasters."
Geissendörfer ended up putting up some of his own money, and the rest of the tiny budget came via sponsorship from companies donating equipment or catering. Some people worked for free. "My editor sat with me for months out of absolute idealism," said Chryssos. "I owe him a lot. He normally cuts TV shows and cinema films."
Chryssos now warmed to the topic. "It's not all the broadcaster's fault – a lot of people have positive experiences with the broadcasters," he said. "But still I see a strange attitude between the broadcaster, the producer, and directors. They sit on this money from their safe positions, and these filmmakers come along with their heart's blood in their scripts."
The upshot is that only a few types of German film gets funded. Chryssos knows the deal: "The most important thing is realism. Something set in Germany, if possible containing a social issue, and not something where the form is in the foreground. It's not allowed to get too crazy."
So go and see Der Bunker while you can. It's probably one of the few chances you'll get. While you're at it, you could watch Sebastian Schipper's competition movie Victoria, which is also something of an exception to the above rules.