A film can tell you nothing for no good reason, having you frustrated until the final frame. Sometimes, a movie can keep everything a secret and get away with it because of how intriguing it is. Alex van Warmerdam’s haunting Borgman is a magnificent example of the latter.
Borgman is a weird flick, but daring because of that. The skillful filmmaker has set up his plan masterfully, and has the average movie goer always paying close attention to details. Every pulse could be a relation to a character’s vindictive behaviour, or their heinous spontaneity. The captivating performances by those with fuzzy motivations and feelings are perfectly blended with a bewitched allure and hair-raising unpredictability.
Alex van Warmerdam knows that by having a lot of his answers hiding in the shadows, he needs to deliver on set design and notable practical creepiness. For instance, the film starts off with unnamed men hunting our lead (Borgman played magnificently by a soft spoken Jan Bijvoet). Borgman lives under the ground and crawls through damp passages to escape. He then proceeds to awaken his cohorts, who also live underground in the forest beneath random wooden doors. Why? We’re not too sure, and the film never tells us. Are they hiding out? Have they done something bad? Or, are these people innocent and this is how they live?
If having unsolved mysteries like these sounds annoying or the filmmaker indulging in style over substance, it’s not like that at all. Alex van Warmerdam doesn’t come off as a storyteller who’s all flair and nothing else. The screenplay – which he also penned – has justifiable dialogue for Borgman and his cronies that fit the character and successfully hint there’s more to be revealed. The audience just has to trust it and hang on – we willingly do.
Borgman then starts to take the shape of a home invasion tale. The ominous man targets a family who are the picture perfect embodiment of a stable family albeit the Father’s irritable mood swings. At first, the family isn’t accepting of Borgman’s presence, mostly because of his persistence that the family isn’t as easygoing with. Using a strategy that is well thought out although giving the impression that Borgman is thinking on-the-fly, he figures out a way to possibly gain their trust.
Much like Borgman himself who’s magnetism seems to pull everyone around him in, van Warmerdam’s film has a similar appeal. We watch this possible sinister agenda carry out against this group of harmless people, and we can’t help but be ok with watching it all unfold. Borgman’s careful combination of spookiness, human drama, and a speckling of dry humour makes for a viewing that never disappoints. The film also has an inviting and illusionary look to it and film aficionados will definitely pick up on the ticks that have been influenced by the creeping work of Michael Haneke.
Borgman is a film that allows you to materialize your own theory at free will. There may be a discrepancy that saunters along to try and sink your thoughts, but you keep wanting to stick with your rationale. It becomes fun trying to back up our own speculations mostly because if we deny what we believe, we’ll be frightened by how deep in the dark we still are.
There are solid answers behind Borgman. After watching this outstanding film, I took to the internet where others were trying to crack the case pitching their own concepts of what Borgman really “was”. I was shocked to see my theory was wrong, but stunned to find a foundation that not only matches up with every thing I saw in Borgman, but it was also an understanding that makes the film that much more out-of-this-world.
It would be unfair to tell you my hunches, and it would be plain unkind to give you what lies within Alex van Warmerdam’s film. You need to figure it out on your own terms while you watch and mull over this brilliant work.