Everyone has something they fear. Whether we acknowledge those fears or not, we all have something that gnaws at our subconscious, that causes us to have doubts, to fear the unknown. At the heart of director Till Kleinert‘s Der Samuari is a story of fear and desires. What if our fears ignited into life? How would we cope with them?
The film opens with a woman sitting at a vanity, applying bright red lipstick and wearing a simple white dress while soft music is playing. The scene then cuts to a man walking into the woods with a bloody bag of meat. He hangs it from a tree and notes that a previous bag (just like the one he’s brought) has been picked through, flies lingering on the remaining bits of flesh. We later learn this man is a young, well-to-do police officer named Jakob (Michel Diercks). Jakob is a kind and bashful young man who most likely joined the police force out of a sense of duty, and perhaps because he didn’t have anything else to do with his life. Jakob lives with his grandmother and has a deep sense of responsibility toward her.
In this quiet German village, we learn that a wolf has been terrorising homes and howling at all hours of the night. Jakob seems particularly interested in investigating and solving this problem despite no real leads or information. Whenever an attack occurs, the edge of the woods is teeming with energy, almost inviting Jakob to take a step into the unknown.
Jakob receives a strange package and a phone call at his grandmother’s home which leads him to an abandoned house where he meets the woman sitting at the vanity applying lipstick in the opening scene. While never giving their name, Jakob realises it is a man and not a woman sitting there. The man in the dress opens the package Jakob received to reveal a Samurai sword. This man, Der Samurai (Pit Bukowski) is clearly in control from here on out and has a strange sense of power over Jakob’s confidence.
From here on out, there are plenty of head scratching, what-the-hell-is-happening sort of moments. While there is great use of silence and simple scenes to add drama and tension to the film, it can be hard to know how to feel about what is happening. Der Samurai attempts to get Jakob to talk about things that make him very uncomfortable and as Jakob resists him, he escalates in his violence.
As the story progresses, we delve deeper into a strange dance between Jakob’s desire to make things right and Der Samurai’s provocations to make Jakob come out of his shell. The desperate, palpable loneliness felt by both Jakob and the Samurai is a constant current throughout the film. The two are constantly dancing around what has drawn them together, with the howling wolf threaded throughout the film as a sort of beacon for their relationship.
Gruesome, blunt, and mysterious, Der Samurai is a film that begs the question: how much control do we have over our fears.