Jul 19, 2011

The Bunker of the Last Gunshots

If you thought the mental and physical deluge portrayed in Adolf Hitler’s bunker in the German epic Downfall (2004) was somewhat intense and even excruciating, you have yet to experience the distinct cinematic majesty of the neo-fascist dystopian sci-fi short The Bunker of the Last Gunshots (1981) aka Le bunker de la dernière rafale directed by popular collaborating French auteur filmmakers Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The Bunker of the Last Gunshots is a 26 minute abstract work where the viewer is tested to their limit in regard to claustrophobic paranoia and an overall supreme agitation of the senses. Although the film includes no back story about its characters, the anti-heroes (if they can be called that) of the film seem like the sole survivors of an apocalyptic war who seem like they would be better off dead, hence the title of the film. The characters of The Bunker of the Last Gunshots sport neo-fascist uniforms worthy of Heinrich Himmler’s ghost and bald heads that are typical of a philistine skinhead tribe. In fact, the sardonically sinister and progressively depraved characters of the short make the protagonist Sam Bell of Duncan Jones’ Moon (2009) seem like a feeble-minded wimp. These nameless men call a postindustrial bunker ruled with a technocratic iron-fist in outer-space their unwanted virtual prison home. I wouldn't be surprised if many neofolk and power electronics musicians borrowed their wardrobe styles from the boys in the bunker. It is no exaggeration for me to say that the sleek and supremely suave fascistic uniforms featured in The Bunker of the Last Gunshots make the stormtrooper uniforms of the Star Wars films seem like schlocky Halloween costumes. One of the commanders featured in the short, who sits in a wheelchair paralyzed like Dr. Strangelove, has a striking resemblance to Erich von Stroheim; the iconic actor/auteur who was greatly loved and later died in France. On top of featuring charming wardrobes, The Bunker of the Last Gunshots was shot in a black-and-green night vision style that further accentuates the overall aesthetic martial prowess of the film. Like many of the great films of the silent era, the short relies exclusively on the visual as this exquisite frog flick features not a single line of dialogue, which only adds to the overall intensity and delightful dissonant ambiance of the film. From the beginning of The Bunker of the Last Gunshots, it will be apparent to the viewer that the mechanical stormtroopers of the film are on the break of deadly malfunction. While many of these malevolent men seem more machine than man, others are noticeably weary of their dubious comrades. One soldier seems to derive sexual pleasure from torturing and killing bugs while others find murdering fellow comrades to be quite an apathetic affair.Another soldier also find himself being experimented on by his comrades and crippled leader. By the end of The Bunker of the Last Gunshots, the boiling bunker inevitably explodes into all out mutiny of the murderous kind.

The Bunker of the Last Gunshots co-director Jean-Pierre Jeunet would later go on to direct the extremely popular French romantic comedy Amélie (2001). If The Bunker of the Last Gunshots has anything in common with Jeunet's cutesy girl comedy, it is that they are both aesthetically pleasing cinematic experiences that make love with the viewer’s eyes. With The Bunker of the Last Gunshots, one’s eyes are most certainly raped yet total pleasure is still derived from the rather vicious visual experience. Of course, it will be no surprise to most viewers of the short that both Jeunet and co-director Marc Caro would go on to direct the dystopian fantasy film The City of Lost Children (1995). Out of all of Jeunet’s films, The Bunker of the Last Gunshots is certainly the most brutal, as the characters of the short fail to inspire any empathy in the viewer, which, of course, was the intention of both directors. After all, one can only assume the characters featured in the film are mass murderers as they kill each other with a stoic precision that is undoubtedly foreign to a novice killer. The Bunker of the Last Gunshots is like a cross between Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), Shinya Tsukmoto's Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989), and Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? (1970), packaged in a neat, no bullshit 26 minute running time. I cannot think of many other films like The Bunker of the Last Gunshots, where mindfucking murder in a paranoiac microcosm is so vivid and well executed (especially during scenes of execution).  If there is any film that can induce temporary schizophrenia in the viewer, it is, without fail, The Bunker of the Last Gunshots.

-Ty E

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