The Samurai Movie Review
Written by Hamzah Sarwar
Written and Directed by Till Kleinert
2014, 79 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Michel Diercks as Jakob
Pit Bukowski as The Samurai
Uwe Preuss as Horvath
Take a seat and prepare to immerse yourself in the fantastical realm of Till Kleinert’s wickedly perverse and whacky imagination. You are deep in an unfathomably dense forest in East Germany as you hear the silent wails of a quaint rural town rumbling in the distance. The wind blows menacingly as the bloodcurdling howls of a wolf echo in the cold night’s sky. It is the setting of a dark fairy tale that is inspired by the tales of the Grimm brothers and ghostly Scandinavian folklore. It’s these desolate surroundings and inventively queer character dynamics that drive this razor sharp, crowd-funded Euro-horror into actualizing its climactic catharsis. Kleinert’s impressive seventy-five minute debut feature oozes style while bathing in its use of blood-soaked, reclusive metaphors to hammer home its subtext.
The Samurai is an exploration of the unconscious mind channeled in the form of a wildly experimental, contemporary slasher romp. The rookie German writer/director’s examination of the alter ego spirals out of control in a death defying descent into the insecurities that are buried deep within our hearts but rarely see the surface. This will feel like a heap of existential nonsense to some, The Samurai isn’t one for those who worship at the altar of traditional horror storytelling. It’s a blazing piece of work that is likely to divide audiences at Film4 FrightFest and is certainly one for those who dwell in the abstract recesses of the genre. It joins an increasing influx of nightmarishly schizoid European horror such as Forzani and Cattet’s The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (2013) that hypnotize with intensely sensorial experiences.
Kleinert’s loosely woven narrative is based on an introverted and socially outcast young police officer, Jakob (Michel Diercks) who is duped by a queer, homicidal psychopath who wields an iconic samurai sword (a katana). Pit Bukowksi (The Samurai) exudes a menacing aura, the cross dresser is intent on wreaking havoc and destruction upon the innocent townsfolk who he believes are ‘dancing to a different tune’ and feels compelled to ‘clear the blockage’. A frenetic chase ensues across town as Jakob desperately attempts to arrest the perpetrator. The Samurai’s quest is a murderous exercise of revenge against those who he deems have wronged him. Or is it? In a fascinating juxtaposition, it is Jakob that has suffered from social abandonment from the residents of the town. He is a maligned figure flying the flag for morality and justice while his peers are busy enjoying life. The Samurai can be interpreted as the personification of Jakob’s alter-ego. He typifies and acts upon those vengeful thoughts which would normally disappear without a second thought. It’s as though Jakob is wrestling with his inner demons before our very eyes. Those lingering doubts about his sexuality, a lack of confidence and the pent up frustration take shape in a literal rebellion in the form of The Samurai. The notion of ‘feeding the wolf’ perhaps indents the need to embrace your animalism rather than suppressing it.
This ultra-violent, atmospheric head trip is beautifully shot and is backed by a sensational score. The Samurai’s flashing blade is deeply memorable in the massacre sequence where we witness a group of teenagers sliced and diced from the POV of a fallen Jakob. It is a spectacular flash of anarchy which radiates like a scene from a Nicolas Winding Refn film. The infernal climax is worth the wait and cements Kleinert’s burgeoning reputation as a filmmaker with a unique voice.
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