A small troop of men reside in a bunker, the remnants of some future war that has created a dystopian world. They are waiting, waiting for something that isn’t entirely clear. The next phase of the war? The word that the fighting is over? An ideal starting point for directors Caro and Jeunet, who would go on to carve their own very particular niche in the off kilter fantasy genre.
The Bunker of the Last Gunshots is a visually stimulating venture, but has a story that won’t make much sense to many people even on second or third viewings. Slowly details become clear as the soldiers proceed wordlessly throughout their daily tasks, the daily grind of their bunker existence quickly established.
All of the soldiers, hairless as a result of radiation no doubt, slowly begin to go mad as a ticking clock begins counting down to zero. What does the clock mean? What will happen when it reaches zero? It all comes across like a sick social experiment, testing out variables on an unwilling captive audience and seeing how they react. As these are soldiers, there’s an almost uniform reaction, and it involves death. Lots of death. A note to military commanders of the future – don’t lock your men up in a bunker together unless absolutely necessary – if cinema teaches us anything, it’s that this will not end well.
The lack of dialogue doesn’t stop the nature of the situation being clear, although as previously mentioned it may take a couple of viewings for things to really slot into place. It’s one of those almost deliberately vague science fiction dystopia settings that asks you to pay particular attention to every little detail, or you’ll be lost. With enough focus then you should be able to piece the basics together, but the actual meaning and intention behind each image is not immediately obvious.
It is however a story that works due to its brevity. Had it been expanded to feature length, or anything beyond its 25 minute running time, then something would likely have been lost as a result. That’s not to say it’s perfect, nor an instant classic in the world of short science fiction dystopia.
Performances are rather uniform, perhaps through design or necessity, it’s hard to say. Everyone has that mad eyed, desperate stare to them, at least. With all the characters wearing the same outfits and the aforementioned lack of hair, none of them stand out in any great detail, and without identifying marks it can be difficult to follow who is doing what. Of course, this being Jeunet and Caro there is probably a satirical element in place right there.
But then perhaps not. This is one of their earliest film efforts and there is much that could have been improved upon, not the least explaining the story in more detail. But on the other hand some of their techniques and stylistic choices are obvious even at this early stage, it would just take a few more years for their style to truly be defined.