Borgman offers creepy and darkly comic chills
Starring Jan Bijvoet and Hadewych Minis. In Dutch, with English subtitles. Rated 14A.
Charismatic strangers have been infiltrating the homes and upsetting the lives of the bourgeoisie since Terence Stamp wandered into a Milanese estate and fucked mom and son in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Teorema.
This fertile ground for edgier filmmakers, including Michael Haneke (Funny Games) and Takashi Miike (Visitor Q), gets raked over again—literally, in this case—with Alex van Warmerdam’s festival fave Borgman.
Here, the interloper is actually routed out of the earth itself in the film’s opening scene by a hunting party led by a priest. Camiel Borgman (Jan Bijvoet) escapes but manages to alert a couple of other underground dwellers by cellphone along the way. Stumbling on the blocky modernist fortress-home of a TV executive and his artist wife (Jeroen Perceval and Hadewych Minis), he begs for a bath but receives an ass-kicking instead from the uptight master of the household.
Thus begins Borgman’s bizarre seduction, if that’s the word, of the entire family, including three creepily well-behaved kids and their hot young nanny, a feat he achieves with a seemingly ever-increasing team of partners, a few otherworldly dogs, and a practical approach to murder. Does the family doctor pose a threat to their hilariously well-organized, if largely impenetrable, caper? Then kill him and dump him with his head encased in concrete, like all the other corpses gathering (rather beautifully, from a visual standpoint) at the bottom of a nearby pond.
The not-totally-original premise here is that Borgman and his crew, with broad hints that something supernatural is afoot, are exploiting the latent violence and other related passions that simmer beneath the surface of this “perfect” middle-class family. But Bijvoet mesmerizes as Borgman, as does van Warmerdam’s coolly opaque storytelling and detached black humour.
In the end, the creepiest thing of all might be the ambivalence in Borgman’s final scenes to the chilling purpose of these particular funny games.