READER RECOMMENDATION: BORGMAN

Reader review by Hendrik Jacobus Mostert. Also see Ryan Aarset’s official List Candidate review.

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Hadewych Minis, Jeroen Perceval

PLOT: A mysterious drifter invades the home of an upper-class family, only to bring chaos into their lives.

Still from Borgman (2013)

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: The main character, Camiel (Bijvoet) unleashes extreme psychological torment on a family who takes him in and cares for him. The viewer questions his motives (and those of his “accomplices”) as no justification or explanation is given for their strange and questionable actions, leaving the viewer perplexed throughout the entire experience.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Three bodies floating upside-down in a river with buckets of cement covering their heads.

COMMENTS: One of the most apparent themes in this film is that of psychological manipulation and the trust we have in strangers. Camiel, who is the stranger, quickly gains the trust of a woman, and she allows him to stay at their house. Working under the guise of a gardener, he brings his “accomplices” along to renovate the estate. His accomplices are complete strangers, but the family have trust in them because they consider Camiel as trustworthy. What is most unsettling is that trust quickly turns into a type of master/slave situation in which Camiel and his cronies can get away with extremely questionable behavior. A good example of this is the scene where the “accomplices” lead the children into a bunker where they drink suspicious red cool-aid and have some type of surgery performed on them. The disturbing aspect of this scene is already self-evident, but what makes it more disturbing is the fact that the children are willing participants, almost like they are part of a cult and have to undergo some kind of ritual/ initiation. The children never mention this to their parents, again reinforcing the idea of complete trust in strangers, for reasons which remain a mystery to the viewer.

FUN FACT: The director, Alex van Warmerdam, plays a role as one of Borgman’s “accomplices”.

 

One thought on “READER RECOMMENDATION: BORGMAN”

  1. Nice review. It deserves a spot on the list.

    It’s been criticized for not having a sharper focus, but not by me. I love the overwhelming ambiguity that is a product of a film that raises several intriguing themes (religion, class warfare, psychological manipulation) and only skirts the edges of the issues they raise, leaving viewers to connect the dots.

    I will add that Jan Bijvoet (as Camiel) delivers a brilliant performance as the social puppetmaster extraordinaire.

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