Where to begin with Der Samurai? From writer/director Till Kleinert, this is a visually gorgeous mashup of horror and fantasy with an unusual emotional addition that is either the most brilliant commentary on gender and sexual identity ever or it’s the most offensive.
In a small German town, the folks are tormented nightly by a wolf on the loose. Using a loose interpretation of the werewolf legend, Der Samurai brings together Jakob and a sword wielding transvestite. Jakob is the local policeman who gets no respect and is often heckled by the local thugs. Most of this harassment revolves around VERY thinly veiled references to Jakob’s manhood. The overall feeling of latent homosexuality is immediately put into motion and as the film progresses, it vacillates between homoerotica and straight up homophobia.
Jakob is trying to catch the alleged wolf that is scaring the community, but he also needs to deliver a samurai sword to an unknown house where he finds Der Samauri. A beautiful blonde man who has lovely hair, a striking face and is wearing a very pretty dress. He does not live in this house and it is never explained why the sword was delivered to Jakob so he could then deliver it to his future tormentor, but we’ll just roll with it anyway.
A strange cat and mouse game between the two unfolds as not so subtle connections are made between Der Samauri, the alleged wolf and Jakob. The use of lush lighting and some truly fun beheadings help illustrate a night in the life of a man who is, perhaps literally, chasing himself and killing that which he finds to be the most offensive and oppressive thing about himself. On the surface, this is a really beautiful movie where the level of blood and violence is kept right at the boundary of realistic and B-level and that helps maintain the overall dream like quality. At times, the “subtle” references to gender and sexual identity hover in that romantic Interview With A Vampire territory. At other times, unfortunately, it feels more like someone working out their own personal problems and subjecting us to it. At no point is this more obvious than at the very end of the movie where I will say only that it was nice to see full frontal, erect, male nudity instead of the usual horror movie boob fare.
Referring to itself as a “nightmarish queer thriller” where the unnamed man in a dress threatens to “unlock and awaken Jakob’s innermost demons”, Der Samauri treads precariously between being queer positive and outright offensive. Pit Bukowski absolutely owns the screen with his intense feral beauty and at no point does it seem absurd to watch this beautiful man wearing a dress as he goes around killing people with a phallic object. The final decision made by Jakob is where the movie seems to be confused by it’s own message and metaphors. Based on how the story unfolded, one would assume that the final message would be one of personal acceptance. For this viewer, it felt like I was bashed over the head with the reminder that you should always stifle yourself because your inner “demons” should never be allowed out to play.
Check out @HellingsOnFilm’s review here