Don’t let bearded-men into your home. Ever.
Camiel Borgman (Jan Bijvoet) is a man who, along with his two associates, live out in the middle of the woods, alone, peaceful and presumably, up to something weird. That is until a priest and his fellow henchman come along one day and dig up their holes, leaving Camiel and his gang to run away; with the former getting separated from the rest. Camiel eventually runs into a wealthy suburb and targets a house where he acts as if he knows the wife of the house (Hadewych Minis), even if the husband (Jeroen Perceval) doesn’t believe it for a single second and kicks his ass out. However, there’s something strange going on between the wife and Borgman – she doesn’t know him at all, yet, she feels the need to help him and make sure that he has a place to stay and be safe. But in order for him to do so, he must clean-up his look and take over their job as gardener, even if it is already taken by somebody else. That doesn’t phase Camiel though because, along with his band of trustees, he’s able to take out the gardener and secure his position as the family’s new and improved gardener that’s doing some real business on the backyard, as well as the family itself.
So basically, the whole idea of this story is that our title character, Borgman, has a certain way, or aura if you will, about him that conjures up all of the weirdest, darkest and most sinister thoughts of those around him. It doesn’t matter if he’s around the most clean-cut, respectable, moral human beings on the face of the planet, whenever Borgman stands right next to them, all of a sudden, they’re thrown into a trance that they can’t control or explain. Instead, they just stay drawn to Borgman and never, ever want him to leave their sides. Doesn’t matter if he’s dangerous for their own well-being or not, there’s just something about him that tempts people to do and say things they wouldn’t normally do or say in their own, normal states of minds.
Like as if he’s like the Devil himself, except in a human-like form, you know?
Well, that’s exactly the idea that I think writer/director Alex Van Warmerdam is going for, because, on numerous occasions, Borgman himself makes reference to God, several biblical stories and, a weird tale about “the White Child”. In all honesty, I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I understood everything that this movie was serving to me, however, I will tell you that there’s something strange about this movie that just kept me watching. Sort of like it’s titled-character, I know, but there’s something interesting about watching an upper-class, normal family of five just get possess because of one man.
And to be honest, it sort of happens for no reason; in fact, there’s some hilarity to that whole situation in that this one man can take down a whole family, without anybody really objecting to any of it or even taking notice. They too are stuck under the spell of Borgman and while that may sound too goofy and aloof to actually work, for some reason, Van Warmerdam’s takes his material just seriously enough that it does work. In a terribly freaky, unsettling way, of course, but also in the kind of way that makes it seem like this is the type of movie that’s skewering the general perception one has about the perfect, settled and common family.
Which is to say that there’s some delight to be had in watching a character constantly screw it up, time and time again, while doing all sorts of strange things every so often as well. Not saying that any of these characters in this family deserve to have their lives messed-up (okay, maybe except for one), but it’s just interesting, and sort of funny as well. However, that’s exactly the kind of emotions/feelings Van Warmerdam seems to embrace, which is why his story can go through as many strange hoops as it wants, it’s hard to lose its audience.
Yet, no matter how many times this movie took pride in “being vague” and trying to confuse the hell out of us, it still somehow works. Like I said, it’s all about seeing somebody screw a family up, without any of them ever noticing, but it’s also the idea in which a movie that plays by its own rules, never settles for anything else but its own self, as well as its own personality.
That said, most of the time, it doesn’t work and that’s because a lot of it seems to be going to a point in which we already expect from the second Borgman walks into that house and practically takes over the whole family’s mind. It’s almost as if we, the audience, get exactly where this movie’s going to go and wants to go, and it takes quite some time to get to there. The movie throws enough hoops here and there to screw us over along the way, but it felt like the movie was just spinning its wheels for the sake of doing so, even if it was totally clear where it was trying to go with itself.
Did that make any sense? I don’t know. But either way, what I’m trying to say is that at an-hour-and-45-minutes, the movie feels a tad too much longer than it wholly needs to be. Maybe a quick, lean and mean hour-and-a-half would have done more justice?
I don’t know. Most likely, it’s just me.
But thankfully, Jan Bijvoet is so darn good in this role that it’s easy to get lost in just about everything he does, even if it isn’t totally clear what that is, or why. We know for certain that he’s not up to any good, but we also know that he may have a bit of a conscience, if only slightly. The only times we see that conscience shine any bit whatsoever is whenever he and Hadewych Minis are together on screen; who is also another performer here that does very, very well with what she’s given. What Minis does well as Marina, is that she gives us the impression that even though she’s sad, repressed and feeling a bit trapped, she would never leave her husband, her kids, or her lavish luxury behind. She’s happy being the mommy, the wife, as well as the artist, even if theyt do come with their hardships at times.
However, once Borgman walks into her life, things go haywire for this lady really quick and its fascinating to watch. She doesn’t do a total 180 and just fall right into Borgman’s arms – much rather, she throws him small, playful hints that she wants him, the excitement and the possibility of leaving this life behind. Slowly but surely, we start to see her change her personality and begin to, somewhat, lose her mind. It’s interesting to watch this character dissolve into somebody totally, unmistakably different than who she originally was before, but it’s also a tad disturbing because you know that it’s not going to end well for her, no matter which way you put it.
All I can is don’t ever get yourself mixed up with the Devil. Or, in this case, Borgman. But what’s the difference, really?
Consensus: Though Borgman is a strange beast of its own kind, it’s nevertheless an interesting, albeit disturbing watch of what happens when one good person flirts around with the idea of evil, and how it seemingly effects all those around them.
7.5 / 10 = Rental!!