Wednesday, May 7

Borgman Review

Dir: Alex van Warmerdam
Starring: Jan Bijvoet, Hadewych Minis, Jeroen Perceval, and Tom Dewispelaere

“Borgman” is a difficult film to categorize, let alone explain exactly what happened once the credits roll. Just when it’s starting to make sense something changes and everything you thought you had figured out transforms. Utilizing several dramatic and horror genre characteristics, Alex van Warmerdam makes this occasionally confused film into a flowing mix of sinister, mystical, comical, and metaphorical content.  

A priest leads a manhunt into the forest carrying sharpened and loaded weaponry. The men arrive at an indiscriminate location and the priest gives them a signal to start digging. Underneath the forest floor is a cavern, home to a disheveled bearded man named Borgman (Jan Bijvoet) who barely escapes and relocates into a high-end suburb. After sustaining a vicious beating at the hands of homeowner named Richard (Jeroen Perceval), Borgman manipulates his way into the lives of the man’s family and carefully introduces mayhem into their lives.

“Borgman” finds satisfaction in ambiguity. From the beginning frames the film introduces surprising and odd imagery, such as an armed gang led by a shotgun-toting priest. The film revels in strange narrative shifts that offer tonal changes, demanding viewer refocusing just as the narrative drifts in an expected direction. Surprisingly there is also a menacing sense of humor present, one that compliments the absurd and violent events taking place. Whether it’s the pot gardening influenced disposal of bodies or the repeated bantering of Borgman’s devoted underlings, its dark comedy that adds a quirky undertone to the initial storytelling and in some regards the story of Borgman feels influenced from aspects of Grimm’s fairy tales. Unfortunately the playfulness soon leaves as the third act drops the comedy and opts for a darker characteristic.  While this change should feel completely ordinary in a film that feels so erratic, the straightforwardness of the conclusion feels a little out of place.

What is Borgman? The answer is never revealed and only the most minor of hints are given to assume a guess of the origin of his character. Jan Bijvoet holds the mystery together with his performance. He is unassuming and delicate with his mannerisms; while his character is directly implicated on all the devious dealings there is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” quality. Hadewych Minis plays the subdued Marina with poise, a women seduced and manipulated but never fully knowing why, just like the viewer.

There is much to be said about this film but to divulge more information about the plot or musings concerning the meanings behind the narrative symbolism would be to spoil the enjoyment of wandering unarmed into this world so carefully crafted by its director Alex van Warmerdam. To say this film isn’t for everyone is an understatement, but if you are willing to take the risk you’ll likely venture into a memorable film experience.

Monte’s Rating

4.00 out of 5.00

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