Borgman

Borgman is the central character in Alex van Warmerdam’s dark, malevolent fable. Is he a dream or a demon, a twisted allegory or an all-too-real embodiment of our fears? Borgman is a sinister arrival in the sealed-off streets of modern suburbia. His presence unleashes a crowing gallery of distortion around the careful façade constructed by an arrogant, comfortable couple, their three children and nanny.

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  • ★★★★½ review by DirkH on Letterboxd

    Van Warmerdam is my favourite Dutch director. He makes films that are quintessentially Dutch in their tone and touches upon Dutch sensibilities with confounding and intriguing absurdism.

    Borgman is a step away from that in so far that this is a more universally themed film, but it is still imbued in that trademark van Warmerdam style. It is a film that is very difficult to grasp and I feel attempting to make sense of it is missing the point. This is a visually striking mood piece, focused more on conveying a sensation rather than recounting a story.

    Borgman is about evil. Evil we, adults, call upon ourselves, invite into our homes, driving our self centred lives. As heavy as this may sound, van Warmerdam's dark tone with a soft touch provides for some darkly comic moments and a purveying sense of unease and dread.

    The cast is excellent, but Jan Bijvoet and Hadewych Minis are absolutely phenomenal. While I don't feel this is van Warmerdam's strongest film, it is definitely his most visually striking. He composes tableaus here that are very memorable, but his biggest achievement lies in creating that intangible, persistent sense of unease.

    Funny, absurd, elusive and uncomfortable, Borgman is an experience I can highly recommend.

  • ★★★★ review by Naughty on Letterboxd

    It is among my favorite genre's "Movies that confuse and confound and leave you musing over its meaning for days"

    Evil is always looking for a way in and weakness is that neon entrance sign pointing the way to your soul! Kinda like my sister's dog Lacey, whom knows better than to turn to her owners for frequent tongue lickings and profound bow wow conversation so she searches for that weakness in those whom visit their home! So the running gag is don't look her in the eye's!

    You can't look Evil or Lacey in the eye's! It's just that simple! For if you DO it spells complete and utter disaster!

    If like me you appreciate the bizarre and absurd and like a good film that puzzles you for days on end then this film is right up your alley!

    Jan Bijvoet gave one hell of an amazing performance!

  • ★★★½ review by Dirk van Eck on Letterboxd

    Twenty-second watch of March around the World: Netherlands. And so this challenge, although officially closed by now, brings me to my home country. I haven’t seen a Dutch film since 2010 - the absolute must-watch recommendation to all of you: New Kids Turbo. The advertisement of Borgman - “what if Dogtooth had been directed by Michael Haneke?" - is rather enticing though, so that was something to check out. My good grief, I had no idea such a brilliant piece of cinema could come from my country. First scene? Took me by surprise. The titular antagonist Borgman is chased out of his underground burrow (a common style of living here in the Netherlands) to an high-class residential area where he starts ringing doors, asking the inhabitants whether he could have a bath in their house. What happens next is indescribable, but stellar. I mean, how satisfying is this?

  • ★★★★ review by Thomas Ringdal on Letterboxd

    Borgman is a very playful, intriguing and exciting piece of film from the Dutch veteran Alex van Warmerdam (starring in a smaller role as well, as he usually does).

    Borgman flings us into the action with a riveting chase between a priest and his lackeys and a group of men hiding underneath the forest soil.

    One of these men turn out to be Camiel Borgman.

    After Borgman warns his compatriots of the impending danger, himself having barely managed to escape, he enters a fashionable slice of suburbia and tests the inhabitants' will to let an unknown, unkempt man have a bath.

    After instigating an altercation with the man of one of the houses, he manages to instill a bit of empathy from his wife, and gets a foot inside the door, hell bent on never leaving again.

    Borgman is played by Jan Bijvoet (Broken Circle Breakdown bit player), and together with Hadewych Minis they form a great leading duo, as the enigmatic Borgman bit by bit makes his presence count.

    Up to this point it's been a bit odd, but not anything out of the ordinary, as long as you keep an open mind. What follows is definitely more on the surreal side of things.

    In my opinion Warmerdam has left his film's conclusion and motives hanging in the air for a reason. Or should I say flying around up in the sky?

    I've read so many different interpretations, and I find it hard to definitely debunk any of them.

    There are a few handheld hints to be found, though.

    One is the lessons in Borgman's little night time tale told to the children of the house, the other Borgman's first name; Camiel, referring to the angel responsible for evicting Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. And lastly, a Bible verse in the opening credits.

    A deeper thought experiment into the how's and why's would conjur up spoilers faster than you can say "what?!?", so I will in stead leave you wanting more.

    Set completely in or around said house, photographed with aplomb, Borgman hypothetically plays as Bunuel's vision of Funny Games, and if that's not a selling point, then you'll never enjoy this anyway.

  • ★★★★½ review by Rod Sedgwick on Letterboxd

    “And they descended upon the earth to strengthen their ranks.”

    With the utmost confidence and command, Alex van Warmerdam's Borgman opening scene sunk it's hooks in deep and refused to let me go for the remainder of it's running time. A Priest and a lynch mob of sorts hunt down a nest of (literal) underground vagrants and send them scampering for safety out of the woods and into palatial suburbia, and from this dizzying and disorienting (and one of the most exhilarating cinematic moments I have experience of late) set-piece we are flung into the world of the sly and seductive Camiel Borgman.

    A film that would seemingly fall into the expanding 'home invasion' subgenre of cinema, Borgman eschews categorization and becomes an entirely different beast that is at times unpredictably absurd and at others quite surreal as our titular protagonist invades and infects a wealthy household by gaining the affection of a bored housewife and entangles everyone in a sticky web as he slowly enacts his master-plan to separate the weeds (the detestable and entitled upper class parental figures) from the chaff (the innocent and untainted children). Warmerdam cleverly dangles a carrot in front of the audience for the entire film, feeding us with just enough tiny clues without ever stripping out the ambiguity that makes it as ultimately effective as it is.

    SPOILERS

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    We have a family living in a symbolic Eden, and we are witnessing the an allegorical casting out of the elitist upper crust as dished out by fallen angels, led by Camiel (From Wikipedia:''Camael (Latin Camael), Means one who sees God. (also known as Kamuel, Chamuel, Camiel, Camniel) is an angel in Christian mythology and angelology, and is often included in lists as being one of the seven archangels. He is claimed to be the leader of the forces that expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden holding a flaming sword. Camael is not recognised by the Catholic Church due to the Vatican's decision to ban the veneration of angels not mentioned in the Bible.'') and as mentioned in the bible verse quoted at the top of my review, is building a minion of followers on earth (much like Nephilim of the Old Testament: ''Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.'') by marking (the strange operation that is being performed on the children and nanny to make them compliant and leaving a scar on their back in the process) and recruiting them into the ranks on Earth. The children are chosen because of their innocence and undeveloped prejudice against their fellow man, whereas the parents have a detestable elitist one percent mindset ( “We’re from the West; it’s affluent. That’s not our fault.”) that close their door on the lower class as well as those are not of the same race. It's interesting to note that a Catholic Priest is hunting Borgman at the beginning of the film also which would suggest that he has either been stirring up the Religious elite, or has at least made his presence known.

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    END SPOILERS

    This is a wonderfully crafted thriller with stellar performances and an aesthetic that brings to mind Lanthimos Dogtooth and Haneke's Funny Games. The allegory and symbolism within is a potent brew that begs for much interpretation and analysis whilst still managing to be ambiguous enough to keep it rattling about in the skull. I was genuinely surprised by the films inventiveness, unnerving tone and macabre sense of humour and cannot recommend it highly enough to those who crave a slice of original pie.

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