Review: Der Samurai

Till Kleinert’s Der Samurai has finally arrived on Blu-ray, courtesy of Artsploitation Films. In my opinion, it is one of the best films I have seen in quite some time.

Der Samurai unfolds like a fairy tale, as a young officer named Jakob quietly carries a bag of bloody, raw meat through the forest with the intention of feeding a stray wolf that has been lurking around the neighborhood. The musical score envelops us, luring us in to the world that Kleinert has meticulously created, while setting us up for the darkness to come.

Jakob is a reserved and socially awkward man. He lives with his grandmother, and acts as her caretaker when he isn’t patrolling the streets or carrying out other various tasks at the office.

One night, Jakob receives a mysterious package at his door, along with a disturbing phone call. The person on the other end of the line gives Jakob an address, and asks him to deliver the package himself. So, in the dead of night, Jakob sets out to do just that, and comes upon a dilapidated house. He cautiously wanders inside, until he enters a room where a man in a long dress with blonde hair is putting on lipstick. The two have an awkward exchange, before Jakob hands over the package. The stranger opens the package and retrieves a samurai sword. Not knowing exactly what he’s dealing with, Jakob attempts to apprehend this man, but it appears that The Samurai is too quick for him, and he escapes.

The rest of the film consists of Jakob’s tireless pursuit of this seemingly supernatural entity – this transvestite samurai who may also be a werewolf. And we do see the wolf from time to time, lurking in the shadows, almost beckoning Jakob. The samurai speaks cryptically to Jakob, always referring to him as the “Lonely Wolf”, and suggests on more than one occasion that the two of them are connected – perhaps two sides of the same person. Underneath the surface, this is a film concerning the manifestation of inner desires. Jakob is presented as an effeminate introvert whose interactions with the opposite sex are stunted and uncomfortable. And as this samurai goes on a bloody rampage around the neighborhood, terrorizing and beheading anyone who dares to get in his way, we see Jakob begin to surrender. After all, Jakob has been periodically feeding the wolf in the forest, trying to keep it at bay – but as we will see, it doesn’t take long before “the wolf” breaks free, forcing Jakob under its spell.

Der Samurai is only 73 minutes long, but within that short running time, several memorable images and ideas are presented to us. It is one of the most important films of the year, as it brings these definite queer sensibilities to the horror genre in ways that are explicit, yet artistically conveyed. Working within the confines of a limited budget, Kleinert has crafted a piece that will divide audiences, initiate discussion and analysis, and will hopefully find a devoted following. Michel Diercks brings Jakob to life in a controlled, subtle performance, but it is Pit Bukowski that truly delivers as the samurai. This is an iconic character, and an extraordinarily brave performance that truly captivates.

Der Samurai is one of the true cinematic events of 2015, and should not be missed. It is available on Blu-ray from Artsploitation Films.

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