by George Wolf
Before hitting the theater for this one, get your head right, because Borgman is gonna mess with it.
Writer/director Alex van Warmerdam delivers a surreal, nightmarish, sometimes darkly comical fable guaranteed to keep you off balance. It is meticulously crafted and deliberately paced, a minefield of psychological torment.
Jan Bijvoet is quietly riveting as Camiel Borgman, a vagrant on the run from a group of armed men who have discovered his impressive underground hideout. Fleeing through the woods, Camiel comes upon the home of an affluent family and reaches out for assistance.
The moment the front door is opened, the family begins to lose control of their lives.
Borgman is the Netherlands official selection for this year’s Academy Awards, and last year it became the first Dutch movie accepted to Cannes Film Festival in nearly four decades. A little background in European folklore will help to understand Camiel’s unusual behavior, and the effect he has on unsuspecting targets.
Still, don’t expect any concrete answers. van Warmerdam channels Michael Haneke but becomes even more cryptic, to a degree that occasionally threatens to derail the film’s compelling nature.
But the skills of all involved ultimately win the day. van Warmerdam offsets his mysterious script with assured, thoughtful direction, buoyed by a fine ensemble cast and crisp, sometimes remarkable cinematography.
Like its title character, Borgman is unique and hypnotic, leaving you with so many different feelings you won’t be quite sure which one is right.