BORGMAN Movie Review
“..and they descended upon the Earth to strengthen their ranks.” — Borgman
The opening text to Alex van Warmerdam’s dark and surreal fairy tale is the biggest clue to solving the enigma of Camiel Borgman (Jan Bijvoet) and much like the family that crosses paths with this mysterious vagrant, I found myself helplessly entranced by what seemed like malevolent forces defying logic and leaving a trail of dead innocence in it’s wake.
Borgman opens like a classic monster fable as angry vilagers following a priest are seeking out Borgman and his legion of followers, as they rest underground in coffin like bunkers. After many rejected attempts of finding hospitality and solitude, the tramp like ringleader finds himself drawing sympathy from a suburban housewife after provoking a savage beating from her quick-tempered husband. The cryptic mystery begins to unravel as Borgman replaces the caretaker of their Eden like garden and his loyal minions begin to join him on his diabolical mission.
Warmerdam refuses to rob his audience the sense of discovery, as the mythological pieces are scattered about to enhance the pleasure of putting them together for our own conclusions. The mysterious illness cast over the children, the disturbing marks on their backs and the puppeteer like influence over the mother’s dreams are all left to explore in the subtext. Particularly, “The White Child” that Borgman reads to the children is filled with brilliant parallels to the misfortune, or perhaps from his perspective, chaotic liberation that unfolds around the family.
Jan Bijvoet has a confident and calm quality that reminds me a bit of Christoph Waltz, that if transitioned to the states could land him in some interesting roles or get him swallowed up by Hollywood and typecast as a villain in summer blockbusters. Warmerdam shows a David Lynch like approach to storytelling and it would be great to see what he would do with more surreal imagery to layer on to his subtextual prose. Borgman is a tense experience that leaves plenty for the mind to dissect and there’s dark humor displayed in the Old Testament like aftermath of seeing victims weighed down like water plants at the bottom of the lake. There’s much to absorb and never a dull moment in Borgman and you will most likely be left disturbed and fascinated in equal proportions.