director Alex van Warmerdam
Borgman is a modern Dutch fairy tale of sorts, a metaphorical, metaphysical nightmare, dark and comic and strange.
The film opens with a witch hunt of sorts, a priest and armed men hunt in the woods for a homeless-looking man who is hiding in a well-concealed hole in the ground. As he escapes them, he contacts others, initially trying through cell phones, but eventually escaping into an upscale suburbia into which he attempts to ingratiate himself. He knocks on doors and eventually finds a home that begrudgingly invites him in.
Who and what Borgman is isn’t really ever fully explained. There is some suggestion that he is a trope of some ancient lore, some demon or spirit or evil, but he and his group of fellows are both ancient and modern, infecting this wealthy suburban family with fears, ills, hatred, doubt, and eventual downfall. What his darkness represents is never fully explained, how real he is, how metaphorical his infestation. It’s eerie. And it works.
What confounded me a little more was exactly what failure the family demonstrated that brought him on them rather than others. In some homes, the door is shut coldly in his face. In fact, the father of the house he comes to infect initially beats him and drives him off. It is the mother’s sympathy for him that invites him in for a bath and soup, and eventually the nature of his simple, subtle invasion perverts minds and hearts as he whispers stories or insinuates their dreams.
At one point, the family consider their vulnerability because they have it so good. But this aspect is also somewhat unclear. Not that it utterly matters, in a sense. That evil and downfall can come upon anyone, particularly a nuclear family with a nice home, a live-in au pair, and a big garden, the vulnerability of life and normality.
It’s a striking and clever film. Really, one of the more interesting new films I’ve seen in a while.