There is something disconcerting about Jakob Wolski, an enigma wrapped in an uncompromising resolve to do the right thing. A young police officer in the small town where was born, since the death of his parents he has lived with his grandmother, caring for as her faculties diminish, and everyone knows him and he knows everyone and there are no secrets.
Convinced that they’re rebels, dangerous outlaws, the bikers who hang around the town grew up with him yet there is a divide between them and Jakob, the man who chose to be upstanding, an uneasy truce where they show as little respect to the representative of the law as they can get away with. In his bedroom he builds a model village, his way of achieving control, perfection, the parallel to his model life.
There have been reports of a wolf stalking the outskirts of the town; rather than trap it or hunt and kill it, Jakob takes raw meat into the forest in an attempt to keep it from the houses, reasoning that if it is fed it will have no need, a strategy frowned upon with distinct disdain when he explains it, but he stands firm.
A package arrives at the police station, marked for “the Lonely Wolf care of Jakob Wolski;” he is not expecting it, but nor does he open it to investigate, taking it home instead. That night an anonymous caller identifies themselves as the correct recipient and tells Jakob where he can find them, and he walks out into the night to deliver the package.
What he finds in the isolated property is a solitary man he doesn’t recognise wearing only a backless once-was-white full length wedding dress, his shoulder length blonde hair in disarray, gazing into the mirror of a dresser as he applies lipstick. If Jakob is shocked, he remains professional, supportive of the stranger who has summoned him.
“You won’t have it easy around here looking like that,” he offers as he hands over the package which the stranger opens and pulls out a katana, the traditional sword of ancient Japan.
The second feature from writer/director Till Kleinert is more easily experienced than described, but the commitment of his two leads within the sparse narrative is as mesmerising and magnetic to the viewer as it is between them. Jakob, Michel Diercks, is an officer dedicated beyond the point of single-mindedness, placing himself in danger in his pursuit of the Samurai in order to protect his town and prove himself.
Pit Bukowski, the Samurai, who worked with Kleinert previously on the 2008 short Cowboy, is a ghost in the night, vanishing on a breath of wind, the sword a part of him as soon as he has drawn it. Simultaneously representative of Jakob’s fears and his inhibitions, teasing him, a catalyst of change which will turn Jakob’s life upside down, taunting him with the words “See how powerful we could be together?” after they have tangled and tumbled to the ground.
Though he is the antithesis of everything which Jakob presents himself as, there is a magnetism to the Samurai, the lonely wolf who haunts the edges of town before running through the streets of civilisation leaving chaos in his wake, and like an animal seeking the company of his own kind Jakob is drawn to him, because no matter the face he wears for the world, like the Samurai he knows he does not belong.
The Samurai sought him out for a reason and Jakob is compelled to follow him, passing up opportunities to take him down, failing to report in or request backup until the situation has escalated beyond any hope of control, decapitated bodies littering the streets.
Set through a single bloody night as Jakob throws himself headlong into uncharted territory, for much of the film the screen is almost in darkness lit only by a torch in the mysterious woods or headlights on a silent country road or by the flickering glow of the fires the Samurai has set across the town, but there are also moments of surrealism and absurdity, the wolf which vanishes when Jakob’s attention shifts as though perhaps it was never there at all, and the Samurai’s demand that Jakob destroy a plastic flamingo which offends him, Jakob’s willingness to comply the first opening which he allows the Samurai.
Less explicit than Stranger By The Lake but treading the same treacherous path between passion and reckless danger, while clear in action the conclusion is opaque in meaning but more infuriatingly undercut by the sudden inclusion of a clumsy and unnecessary pop soundtrack, and the true climax of the film is earlier as Jakob accepts the challenge of the Samurai and agrees to dance with him before an audience of corpses as the town burns, a scene where the primal erotic charge of the film rises to the fore with surprising heat and vulnerability.
The Samurai is available on DVD from 13th April from Peccadillo Pictures