• Conversation with NIKIAS CHRYSSOS, film BUNKER

      FEST 2016 / News / Conversation with NIKIAS CHRYSSOS, film ...
      02. March 2016.
      I had to become a producer myself (laughing). At first, I worked with another producer and we tried with some standard ways of financing, even crowdfunding, but I didn’t want to offer the script to televisions either, because I knew how long it would take

      To begin with, this is a rather unusual debutante film, pretty eccentric. How did you manage to produce it, how do you even present a story like this to potential sponsors?

      Well, yes, it was rather difficult, in the meantime I had to become a producer myself (laughing). At first, I worked with another producer and we tried with some standard ways of financing, even crowdfunding, but I didn’t want to offer the script to televisions either, because I knew how long it would take. Finally, I turned to a large production company that obliged me with a budget I was trying to get, all based on my short movies, which they liked. Of course, they didn’t know how this film would turn out any more than I did, but they were brave enough, or maybe curious enough, which led to a confidence in me and this project.

      It is difficult to position this film, in terms of the genre, it is very diverse. Can you cite some influences or important references?

      I’d say that the influences are diverse, ranging from literature, film, comics… Aside from that, the influence of all the collaborators on the project is also very important. If I should specifically name someone, it would be Kubrick, Polanski, Lynch, Argento, Cronenberg, while, on the other hand, there are slapstick comedies, the Marx brothers… A lot of influences, really.

      You say that a lot of things were a product of a process and that that was crucial? What was the collaboration with the actors and the rest of the crew like?

      I talked to the actors about their roles early on, because I had them in mind when I was writing the script, and I wanted to keep all four of them as a team. They are all very characteristic and we go way back! Una, for example, is intimidating and beautiful at the same time, which is exciting to direct. The other actors play in the crime series at German television, so I really wanted to place them in an entirely new context. For instance, I didn’t even know what Klaus would look like, but I was very happy to see him in pyjamas and a wig. In Germany you can shoot very little with kids, which is a problem, but the world inside this bunker isn’t a real world either, but a world upside down, and he is somewhere between a grown up and a child, which made me choose an actor who is, in reality, older than Una (his mother in the film) for this role. Preparations took a long time, we went to schools, spent time with kids, analysed their behaviour. Among other things, casting an older actor brought a level of depravity and mistery to the role. Despite all of that, I still find Klaus sort of cute.

      Bunker may seem absurd and grotesque at the first glance, but the social and political aspect of this microcosm is layered and not at all arbitrary. Tell us something about it, why was it important for you to make this film?

      I have always been interested in education as a theme. I didn’t like high school and its principles and I have done research on these places where the classic system of education is not applied, there are no grades, children learn through creative work and so on. There is such a school in England, I think it’s called “Summerhill”. Aside from that, there has been much talk about these “helicopter parents” who push their children and force them into education very young, to start learning as soon as possible, because the competition is very strong and the world is a cruel place with a lot of pressure. I think this is a very important theme.

      This problem seems to be highlighted in the dialogue with the student, where we discover that Klaus has never played, nor does he grasp the concept of the verb.

      Yes, exactly, this key element of childhood is missing.

      It’s somewhat of a paradox that Klaus is separated from the outside world, by deliberate and persistent efforts by his parents - yet, it is the very world he is expected to rule one day!

      It’s this irrational need to make something work even though it is completely detached from the reality. The surrounding in which this film takes place is certainly paradoxical, since our hero is very protected, on one hand, and on the other his parents keep insisting that he should be successful. He is slow and not up to the task, and by controlling him they do not allow him to fulfil this role that’s been pushed down on him, the role of a future president, and do not allow him to grow up. I do think that, in the end, in a certain sense he does manage to become emancipated, but we still don’t know whether he is prepared for the outside world. However, it’s not only Klaus who is insecure; if it’s the parents who have high expectations from their child, then we can say that it’s the student who has high expectations from himself. His task is too difficult and I find the ending positive even for him - he can’t cope with the things that divert his attention and he’s vulnerable, confused, even though it seems that he deals with very complex things. This is why I find this ending happy for him as well, he feels relieved after all, because he’s not competing with himself anymore, even if hasn’t accomplished anything. There are always these high expectations, and not everyone can, or should, accomplish these glamorous, special lives we all have an entirely distorted vision of.

      In a symbolic sense, Heinrich is also very interesting, speaking through his mother. What does he represent to you, how did you decide to incorporate this “external element” into the film?

      A demon or, as we call him, Heinrich, is, for instance, a product of the process, through conversations with Una, the actress who plays the role of the mother. We have concluded that this voice gives her a sort of authority, consequently assigning her the highest rank inside this small community. Families like the one we find in Bunker are often very religious and people often seek an excuse for their actions in some higher power, consoling themselves that it’s out of their hands, that they’re just a voice or a medium for some higher authority. It seems to me that it’s also, at least in part, a consequence of the responsibilities they don’t want to accept.

      Are you working on something new and are you planning to do something similar, in terms of the genre?

      I am currently working on two scripts, I am still in the writing phase with the co-screenwriter, but one of them is a film for children - so, something entirely different!