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article imageReview: ‘Borgman’ captivates and perplexes audiences in equal parts Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jul 4, 2014 in Entertainment
The strange promotional art for ‘Borgman’ is reflective of the peculiar narrative that offers more questions than answers while completely engrossing the viewer in its bizarre story.
When a film sets out to be unusual, the results can vary greatly. But the key is to be peculiar with purpose. Just being eccentric for the sake of it is ultimately disappointing because the story winds up feeling empty in the end. Borgman attempts to tell a very strange tale, but unless something is lost in the translation the conclusion is ineffective.
Camiel Borgman (Jan Bijvoet) and his tight knit group of vagrants are on the run. While escaping a trio of hunters, Camiel happens upon the home of Marina (Hadewych Minis), her husband, Richard (Jeroen Perceval), their three children and their babysitter, Stine (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen). He weaves himself into their lives, first enchanting Marina then the rest of the family leaving Richard the outcast in his own house. Several murders occur to facilitate the infiltration, as well as other bizarre occurrences that come to a head at the end of the picture as the bourgeois family is thrust deeper into some level of hell.
The most significant shortcoming of this movie is the lack of adequate (or any) explanation for the weird events in the film. Viewers are hooked by the peculiar happenings, curious to discover the meaning or motivations of the characters. Why do the men live below ground? What have they done to push a priest to murder? What is the purpose of the odd rituals performed throughout the narrative? Is there a secret connection between Camiel and this family? Who or what is Camiel and his followers? What about the dogs? But these and many other questions remain unanswered, causing the narrative to appear incomplete when the credits begin to roll.
Actor/writer/director Alex van Warmerdam’s film presents more questions than answers that will keep audiences scratching their heads long after the movie has finished. And since it’s not wholly grounded in reality, it’s difficult to make sense of it all. But perhaps that is part of the appeal. Is Camiel a devil that spreads evil to all those in his presence or just a charismatic cult leader who enthrals people with his ability to take charge of any situation? Post-screening debates are inevitable as interpretations are unavoidably subjective.
Moreover, the first half of the film is unexpectedly and darkly humorous. Bijvoet projects a Christoph Waltz-quality as Borgman exposes classism in an affluent neighbourhood via an easily outlandish request. The manner in which he sneaks around the house to avoid detection edges on Abbott and Costello territory. Even corpses dumped into the bottom of a lake are grossly funny. However as the body count rises in the second half, the tone of the film begins to change.
Overall this is a highly entertaining and absorbing film — until it reaches the end and you realize you don’t really know what happened.
Director: Alex van Warmerdam
Starring: Jan Bijvoet, Hadewych Minis and Jeroen Perceval
More about Review, Borgman, Jan Bijvoet, Alex van Warmerdam, Thriller
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