Borgman – “Biblical symbolism abounds in this unsettling descent into madness”
Written and directed by: Alex Van Warmerdam
Starring: Jan Bijvoet, Hadewych Minis, Jeroen Perceval, and Sara Hjort Ditlevsen
“Borgman” opens to three men going on a hunt together. Notably, one of the men is a priest. What these men are hunting though is not animal, and it may not even be human. They are hunting for three “Men” who live underground in the woods. Why are they hunting them? We are never told. Paying close attention to the rest of what unfolds though might just answer that question for you.
One of the men, Camiel Borgman (Bijvoet), seems to be the leader. He goes to a nearby neighborhood, and begins going from door to door asking to take a bath. Finally, after being beaten by the man of the house, one woman sees fit to let him bathe and even stay in the guest house at the edge of their property. She hides her decision from her husband and even brings the stranger secret meals.
Slowly, Borgman begins to have an affect on the family. For better or worse the children and mother seem to fall under his spell, and he is free to manipulate them as he wishes. This happens in many dark, unsettling, and sometimes confusing ways. The layered story unfolds at a very even pace and keeps it’s eerie uncomfortable tone throughout.
Warmerdam does a masterful job at keeping his audience from completely understanding everything they are seeing. In my opinion that is a very good thing. I kept thinking to myself “Is Borgman the devil? or maybe just some kind of evil supernatural being?”. I didn’t mind being kept in the dark though. I embraced the beauty of not knowing, and enjoyed the movie for the creepy delight that it was.
If you have the ability to do the same, you will most likely love this movie. If you like things all tidied up and explained, you will be frustrated with it. Regardless though you will be left with it’s unease imprinted on your thoughts. The closest example I can give to the feeling that “Borgman” evokes is a commonly used comparison to “Dogtooth”. Similar to that film, with “Borgman” I just felt like I should always be ready to see something that might damage my soul. It is equally beautiful, tragic, and at times quite funny.
I will not soon forget “Borgman”. I suggest you see it. Then tell me your thoughts.