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Saturday, January 11, 2014

BORGMAN Review - Oscar Submission Series

Courtesy of Drafthouse Films
2013, 108 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

You're either on Borgman's wavelength or you aren't - it's that simple.  Like Yorgos Lanthimos' 2010 film Dogtooth, Borgman doesn't follow the traditional rules of logic and everything seems to happen in its own world.  The world depicted in Borgman is certainly Earth, but it is definitely not the Earth we live on.  This film, like Dogtooth, will be a love-it-or-hate-it affair.  The more adventurous filmgoers will find it to be a refreshing and stimulating film, whereas anyone else will find Borgman to be a nonsensical arthouse film that has no reason to exist.  I luckily would agree with the former.

Alex van Warmerdam's film is a singularly bizarre piece of work and the Dutch submission to the Academy Awards.  Borgman is part surrealist fantasy, part home invasion drama, and part WTF (there's no better way to put it).

The film starts with a man being chased out of his underground home in the woods for no apparent reason.  He then finds a place to stay in a wealthy family's home unbeknownst to the man of the house, as his wife is keeping the man there secretly.  Then, the man leaves and comes back as Camiel Borgman, and gets a job as the couple's gardener to wreak havoc on them.

Borgman is alternately funny and horrifying.  It's dark sense of humor lends itself well to the material - if this film hadn't been played as a comedy, it would have been too weird and nonsensical for its own good.  Van Warmerdam's game cast helps elevate this premise from something purely surreal to something I really cared about.  While the characters are among the most bizarre batch of humans to have crossed the silver screen in the past few years, I somewhat cared for them and was invested in the story.

Jan Bijvoet's performance as Borgman is cunning and sly.  While Borgman may not be the most in-your-face lead character, his alternately friendly and chilly presence is felt throughout.  Bijvoet masters Borgman's little quirks and characteristics and creates a wholly original character.  As the husband and wife whose house Borgman lives in, Jeroen Perceval and Hadewych Minis are amusing screen presences, particularly Minis whose layered performance as the wife, Marina, is a standout - she seems to be completely engrossed in the world of the film and gives this performance her all.

Overall, while I wish there had been a bit more graphic violence to spice things up at some points in the film (there is a moment or two of shocking violence), Borgman is an original piece of work that is truly unlike anything that I have ever seen.  The ever-surprising Drafthouse Films will be releasing Borgman at some point this year.  It is a release that should be met with celebration.


1 comment:

  1. It's nicely written and I personally agree with most of it but the violence moments. I like Borgman being ever-so-calm and he only gives you ideas of terrifying violence, never performances it though. He does not show any kind of emotion (or affection), still so strong and provoking personality that you want more of matter how dangerous it is. The fact that he does not show us has the same effect on the audience like on Hadewych.