REVIEW: Borgman

10 09 2014

BorgmanIn Alex van Warmerdam’s “Borgman,” a mysterious figure rises from underground to perniciously infiltrate the home of an upper-class Dutch family.  His name is Camiel Borgman, and he’s played by Jan Bijovet (looking like a bearded Christoph Waltz) with a sort of pleasant warmth that intoxicates yet harms.  And over the course of nearly two hours, he completely turns the tables on his marks.

We see that he insidiously disrupts the dynamics, but what we don’t get is quite how … or more importantly, we never really get a hint as to why he does this.  Perhaps there’s something culturally assumed in the Netherlands that I am simply losing in translation.  The film feels like a regional parable about the chickens coming home to roost for the ignorant wealthy, yet it’s lacking a certain punch to really drive home a message.

There seems to be an almost supernatural power that Borgman possesses, and I’ll give van Warmerdam credit for keeping this strange effect a rather understated facet of the character.  But without any sort of explanation or tip-off, “Borgman” feels a rather tedious and frustrating watch.

Furthermore, we’re never clued into the film’s internal logic.  It’s as if all the scenes that make the parts of “Borgman” cohere were removed in the editing room, leaving behind a movie that’s just smugly enigmatic.  van Warmerdam’s emotionally detached filmmaking style means that we’re not entering the film emotionally through the charaters.  We’re just observers, watching a steady simmer of a movie that never feels like it’s going to reach a boil.

“Borgman” has its fair share of memorable images (heads in buckets of cement, anyone?) as well a sizable enough body count to keep our curiosity.  But once it ends, we’re left with precious little to hold onto.  I’m not quite sure what I was supposed to take away from the film other than Alex van Warmerdam wanting me to think he’s Michael Haneke and this is his “Funny Games.”  He’s a cold, calculating filmmaker, but what exactly he wanted the parts of “Borgman” to add up to is beyond me.  C2stars



One response

11 09 2014

It doesn’t go as deep as it totally should have, but it’s an eerie film that definitely had me laughing when I didn’t expect to. Much like I’ve done with Funny Games, oddly enough. Good review Marshall.

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