Samurai, The (2014)

samurai s - Samurai, The (2014)Starring Michel Diercks, Pit Bukowski, Uwe Preuss

Directed by Till Kleinert

Small-town German cop Jakob (Diercks) is an outsider within the confines of his home village. Teased, belittled, and treated with a lack of respect by both his colleagues and random villagers, his present attentions are turned to forming an unlikely relationship with a wild wolf which stalks the local environs. Rather than hunt the creature, Jakob regularly sets out with bags full of meat, hanging them in the woods so that the animal may find easy sustenance there and thus keep its distance from the populated areas. He is soon asked a rather pertinent question, however: what happens when you stop feeding the wolf? It isn’t just going to go away…

Herein lies the central metaphor of Till Kleinert’s striking, sexually-charged The Samurai.

While at work, Jakob receives a mysterious package addressed to “The Lonely Wolf”, courtesy of himself. Curious, he seeks out the address on the package in order to deliver it personally. Said address turns out to be a ramshackle cabin in the woods, populated only by a strange, long-haired young man (Bukowski) clothed in nothing but a rather fetching white dress and lipstick. The contents of the package? A perfectly constructed samurai sword.

And so begins a weird anti-buddy movie pursuit as Jakob accompanies this unusual transvestite stranger, attempting to talk him down and into custody, while the maniac unleashes his particular frustrations on the neighbourhood. What starts with a demonstration of wild dislike for garish garden ornaments quickly escalates into beheading barking dogs and cutting a gory swathe through the local residents as the horrified, pacifistic Jakob tries to figure out how to bring the carnage to an end.

Early hints delivered through the comments of Jakob’s workmates and fellow villagers that point towards his closeted sexuality are by no means accidental in The Samurai, which stands almost entirely as a twisted fairytale allegory. Director Till Kleinert definitely doesn’t want to give all of the answers away, however, leading to a film that is as confusing as it is mesmerizing. Leads Diercks and Bukowski are both fabulous in their roles, playing off of each other with a physical tension that constantly hints of bubbling fury encased in an irresistible allure – a connection between them that Jakob simply can’t let go of, yet cannot fathom. When he accepts an offer to dance with Bukowksi’s madman in order to spare a life, the result is at once a remarkable mixture of hilarity, thoroughly uncomfortable uncertainty, pseudo-romance and barely resisted magnetism that speaks volumes beyond its surface level. You’re likely to think that you’ve figured out just what is going on here by the time the third act kicks into gear, but think again. Kleinert is far and away happier musing on the nature of repression, acceptance, and conflict – both within and without – than he is in trying to overtly uncover them.

The Samurai will burn in your brain long after the heads, and the credits, have rolled. The climax – sporting an exposed, fully erect penis and fireworks erupting from a body in an absolutely marvelous sequence that recalls the wild metaphor of Takashi Miike as much as the rest of the film dwells in Lynchian ambiguity – must be seen to be believed. It does suffer from occasionally lax pacing despite the modest runtime, but The Samurai is a brave, bold, and wild ride that happily bamboozles as much as it rewards. What seems like easy cinematic fare has much more going on than it seems at first glance. Go in with open eyes, ears, and mind; and you should find much to love.

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4 out of 5
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Written by Jon Condit

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