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‘Borgman’ [Blu-ray Review]

Specs

Specs

Details

Director: Alex van Warmerdam
Cast: Jan Bijvoet, Hadewych Minis, Jeroen Perceval
Year: 2013
Length: 114 min
Rating: NR
Region: A
Disks: 1
Label: Drafthouse Films
Release Date: Sep 9, 2014

Video

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Type: Color

Audio

Audio: Dutch: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles: English

Extras
  • Deleted scenes
  • 28-page booklet featuring cast and crew interviews, concept art, and more
  • Features reversible sleeve art by Mondo artist Jay Shaw
  • DRM-free Digital Download of the film in 1080p, 720p, and mobile/tablet formats

Borgman is too enigmatic for its own good.

813TlhS-aXL._SL1500_Jan Bijovet gives a riveting performance as the beguiling and fiendish Camiel Borgman in writer, actor and director Alex van Warmerdam’s Dutch thriller Borgman. However, the magnificent performance is lost in the film’s inexcusable refusal to answer the numerous questions brought about by the perfunctory storytelling. Hadewych Minis, Jeroen Perceval, Tom Dewispelaere and Sara Hjort Ditlevsen also star.

The Film

The vagrant Borgman is first forced to flee his underground dwelling and then he later happens upon the residence of Richard (Perceval), Marina (Minis) and their three young children. After asking to bathe, and then being soundly thrashed by Richard, Borgman hides out biding his time. He feigns very serious wounds and quickly gains the attention and interest of the naïve Marina.

A bizarre sexual attraction begins to burgeon in Marina, while she hides and secretly nurses the wounded Borgman back to health in the guest house. Borgman also starts to win over the children through his numerous visitations that involve him telling the kids stories.

Jan Bijvoet in Alex van Warmerdam's Borgman (2013) [Click to enlarge]

Jan Bijvoet in Alex van Warmerdam’s Borgman (2013) [Click to enlarge]

With a number of odious and puzzling henchmen, Borgman murders Richard and Marina’s gardener, so that the villain might take the worker’s place. Shaven and cleaned, Borgman interviews with and is hired by the very man who beat him to a pulp earlier in the film. Richard has no idea what he’s done, and this opens the door for Borgman to hatch his revenge against the wealthy couple.

There are a couple of instances of imagery that audiences will have a hard time dispelling. The first is how the seemingly normal and charismatic Borgman employs his henchman to do away with his murdered victims. The slain bodies are laid above a metal bucket and the heads of the victims are slowly lowered inside. The baddies then pour wet cement into the buckets; so that they can drop the bodies, head first, into a small lake. It’s both eerie and alluring to see the corpses at the bottom of the lake lying motionless in the buckets.

The second bit of imagery that is grotesquely disturbing is Borgman, pretending to garden, building an elaborate grave for his unwitting victims. Clueless, the couple gathers with their children to celebrate the garden’s completion, unaware that it is intended to be the final resting place for the wealthy family.

It’s obvious why Borgman was screened at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and even nominated for the prestigious Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) Award, which is the highest prized awarded. The film’s direction is superb and the cinematography by Tom Erisman is second to none in its depiction of the picture’s realistically foreboding environment.

Alex van Warmerdam's Borgman (2013) [Click to enlarge]

Alex van Warmerdam’s Borgman (2013) [Click to enlarge]

Unfortunately, all the technical achievements, along with the stellar acting, aren’t enough to carry this intriguing, suspense-building, but ultimately flawed film to conclusion. The first problem is the fact that there is virtually no musical score. When the music is present, it is wicked and foreshadows a bit of the yet unseen horrors. Sadly, it is only utilized in a handful of scenes and the credits. Music is the life soul, if you will, of any good movie. Unfortunately, the score has been left out in the cold to the great hindrance of the picture.

The most irksome issue with Borgman is the number of unanswered questions left for moviegoers to try and figure out on their own. While the film builds and builds gut-wrenching suspense, the movie never gets around to explaining the insurmountable amount of fill-in-the-blanks left for deciphering.

Why were Borgman and his cronies literally living in the ground? Who were Borgman’s accomplices? What was their relationship? What did they have to gain by targeting Richard and Marina? Why did Marina begin lusting after a complete stranger that was haggard at best? Why did Richard and Marina’s seemingly innocent daughter bash a complete stranger’s head in with a concrete slab when all he did was ask for help?

The questions continue right up until the end of the film when the survivors actually go off with Borgman and his gang after witnessing the most heinous of murders. It makes no sense! Unfortunately, without the suspension of disbelief, the suspect narrative of Borgman dooms the film to a less-than-average rating.

Alex van Warmerdam's Borgman (2013) [Click to enlarge]

Alex van Warmerdam’s Borgman (2013) [Click to enlarge]

Video

Shot digitally with the Arri Alexa, Borgman has a relatively cinematic look, which manages to avoid looking glassy for the most part. Detail is reasonably strong, and the colors look natural. The migration of the film to blu-ray by Drafthouse Films is entirely successful.

Audio

Similarly, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track does an excellent job, with clear dialog and natural ambient effects.

Extras

The extra features on this release are a bit sparse, consisting of only deleted scenes, a trailer, and a booklet.

Alex van Warmerdam's Borgman (2013) [Click to enlarge]

Alex van Warmerdam’s Borgman (2013) [Click to enlarge]

Bottom Line

Borgman is an acquired taste at best. Undoubtedly, film aficionados will argue that the unresolved queries are somehow charming and an artistic preference by the filmmakers. Leaving your audience hanging and wanting more is one thing, but refusing to engage them with any inkling of a cohesive conclusion, riddled with laziness, is quite another.

Fritz Lang chose not to reveal, on screen, the aberrant acts that Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre) committed against children in M (1931). John Carpenter chose not to reveal too much about Michael Myers’ background in the original Halloween (1978).  And Wes Craven decided not to shove the issue of child molestation down audience’s throats in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). These are artistic choices that do not hinder the overall narrative. That is why the aforementioned films are good cinema and Borgman is slothful, with its only compelling features coming from the movie’s technical aspects.

Technically, Borgman is well-crafted and there is no fault with the acting, even with the young children. But the screenplay is a hodgepodge of sequences and scenes that leave the audience with just too many questions. Borgman is maddening not mysterious. This is a true case of a filmmaker’s desire to leave the audience wanting more, but all they’re going to want is their money back.

Alex van Warmerdam's Borgman (2013) [Click to enlarge]

Alex van Warmerdam’s Borgman (2013) [Click to enlarge]

For a completely different take on Borgman read Assistant Web Editor Jeremy Kibler’s review here
Borgman is too enigmatic for its own good.…

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About Steven Thrash

Thrash graduated Cum Laude from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communications, focusing on film studies, journalism and theatre. He then pursued his MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University. Dubbed a "prolific" writer by Hollywood icon Kenneth Johnson (The Incredible Hulk, V, The Bionic Woman, Alien Nation), Steven has been honored by the Arkansas College Media Association for his story writing prowess. He has also received recognition for his dramatic writing from the Eerie, Shriekfest and Screamfest horror film festivals, and his first play "Subconscious Lee" was published in December of 2017. Other publications include: Carroll County News, Benton Courier, Saline Courier, Forum, Echo, ABC Financial, Moroch, Dread Central, Morbidly Beautiful, Rue Morgue and Screen Rant.

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