Borgman Screen 16 articles



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  • ...It's entirely possible that AVW is tapping into a national mood or partaking of a broader movement, and I am ignorant of all of this. At the same time, Borgman scans as a piece of by-the-numbers Euro-pessimism. The beginning of the film pays thematic lip service to concerns with the underclass, and the middle and end provide an image of some sort of organized unrest, but these two trajectories don't connect in any logical way.

  • Perhaps what makes Borgman most disheartening is its futility as either cinema or critical essay. Is the cult a group of Satanists? Are they affiliated with a particular political regime? What has shifted in contemporary Western socio-economic life that can update Pasolini's politics from nearly half a century ago? Van Warmerdam's updates remain sketchy and the film's sense of consequence meaningless.

  • The one vital component that Borgman sorely lacks is a tenable connection to reality. Intrigue is one thing, and making a film that's not meant to be read literally is another, but when you are unable to root the antics in world that has no connection to reality, then barbs and insight instantly fall flat. The motivations of the characters feel forced and unlikely – Borgman is one of those movies that would be all over if just one person decided to pick up the phone call the police.

  • There's a blackly comic genre where the privileged are punished for no good reason - just for being "fortunate", as someone puts it - but it works best when it's coolly implacable (e.g. La Ceremonie), not distracted by surreal touches (the dogs) and random unpleasantness. A detached formalist style might've helped but it doesn't have that either - in fact, it has no style to speak of - leaving a gleefully sadistic little film with no real control...

  • ...This kinetic opening, besides being an effectively disorienting table-setter, is also a lofty bar to set for oneself, and despite van Warmerdam’s best efforts to maintain an atmosphere of suggestive ambiguity, Borgman ultimately becomes yet another of the director’s quaint allegories.

  • Where the film derails – besides being a little too like the films cited above – is when you start to see the inevitable end-point (in this case, it has to do with the completion of some rather radical landscaping), and feel like you’re just ticking off incident after incident to get there. Ultimately, Borgman lacks the emotional and ideological underpinnings that made Dogtooth and Funny Games so substantial and satisfying.

  • 'Borgman' is always curious and imaginative, and occasionally funny, in a creepy sort of way. But beyond the shocks and games, there's not a great deal to take away in the form of meaty ideas or lingering themes, and its catchy premise doesn't really deliver in the end. As a satire of the bourgeoisie it's fairly gentle and distinctly unfocused...

  • Van Warmerdam has built a visually clean, efficient, modern version of a fairy tale of the sort that blurs together the pagan and Christian. But he does so without really opening up the metaphysics (or the pretenses) of, say, a Carlos Reygadas trip. At the very least, though, the film confirms the veteran Dutch filmmaker as an under-sung, if perhaps old-fashioned, practitioner of that trusty art-house staple, the twisted domestic allegory.

  • With so many outré elements and so few concrete answers, Borgmancertainly has the makings of a cult film, which seems very much by design. _Too_ much by design, arguably: After a while, the film’s nonstop obfuscation starts to seem irritatingly coy, especially as offset by a theme that’s anything but subtle. “We have it so good,” Marina says at one point, spelling it right out. “We are fortunate. And the fortunate must be punished.”

  • Van Warmerdam punctuates the film with alternately tense and funny moments. Aesthetically, the film know how to establish its tone through visual means... Still, its heavy-handed, allegorical third act runs parallel with its declining sense of humor, causing one to question whether or not Borgmanshould've ever left the woods to begin with.

  • At times, Van Warmerdam seems to take the term "exquisite corpse" literally. Of all the murders I saw in this year's festival, Borgman had the most creative. There's an Edward Gorey quality to the deaths—I couldn't help but chuckle at some of them.

  • By never making evident the terms on which its ostensible satire is built, Borgman ultimately comes across as one of two things depending on viewer sensitivity: at best, a chilling good vs. evil yarn draped in symbolic red herrings and unconcerned with directing audience sympathies; or, at worst, a mean-spirited social tract condemning the vapid, “comfortable” modern family.

  • It’s all somehow both ominous yet delightful, and you wonder how long this directorial magic act can continue — how long the film can hover on the slippery, uncertain edge between suspense and absurdity. Quite long, it turns out … but maybe still not long enough. Borgman eventually does fall to one side of that divide, and I can’t help but think that it loses something in the process.

  • If Michael Haneke had a slightly less ironic appreciation of the term “funny games,” he might have cooked up something a little like “Borgman,” a sly, insidious and intermittently hilarious domestic thriller that is likely to remain one of the most daring selections of this year’s Cannes competish.

  • ...The hard, dreamlike shimmer of “Borgman” never abates; it’s brilliantly photographed (by Tom Erisman) and superbly acted even as the characters push past naturalism into absurdist psychodrama. If you can tolerate watching it once, it will burrow into your brain and never get out again; your only recourse will be dragging your friends into the nightmare and seeing it again.

  • With a winning, enigmatic turn by Jan Bijvoet in the titular role as a one-step-ahead-of-the-game tramp-cum-puppetmaster, Borgman never becomes predictable. It’s great fun, if sometimes confronting, as a well-to-do family’s life is put absurdly through the wringer by a home invader and his several inscrutable colleagues.

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