Cannes 2013: Borgman Is Devilishly Intriguing And Malicious


Peter Willis writes for Bleeding Cool.

Borgman arrived at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival this morning as the first Dutch contender for the Palme d’Or in 38 years. And, though unlikely to walk away with any of the top honours, it will no doubt be one of the most talked movies of the festival – if for no other reason than trying to unravel its mysteries.

We follow Camiel Borgman (Jan Bijvoet) as he infiltrates a wealthy household and begins to untie the knots that keep the family together, his progress charted as something between a murderous thriller and outlandish black comedy.

Knocking on the doors of a tree-lined avenue seeking a shower, Borgman soon finds his “victims”. Hadewych Minis is Marina, an artist who has a strained relationship with businessman husband Richard (Jeroen Perceval).

He slowly works his way into the trust of the household through various guises, becoming an intimate part of their lives while changing them forever. With help from four malicious but ever-polite assailants, Borgman “takes care of” anyone that happens to get in the way of him reaching his ultimate goal – whatever that may have been.

Drifting swiftly between the incredibly surreal and the boldly unsettling, Borgman is far from being an uproarious comedy, but the totally absurd nature of many scenes can’t help but leave you with a grin wider than a Cheshire cat.

A sparingly used soundtrack manages to often instill a certain degree of seriousness to the proceedings; introduced at just the right moment when things could easily have got completely stuck in a comedic mire.

Devilishly intriguing throughout the opening hour, Borgman tends to lose its self within its own mystery towards the conclusion. While it is clear that Van Warmerdam didn’t want to paint the whole picture for the audience, the sheer audacity and muddled nature of the final 20 minutes felt entirely out of place in what had, to that point, been a relatively slick and well-guided script.

Although the narrative isn’t entirely obscure we are left scratching at the surface of something that feels much deeper that, if presented with a shade more reality, could have offered much more. It will doubtless leave many, myself included, feeling ever so slightly short changed.

Primed for multiple sittings, Borgman is slated for release in Europe towards the end of the year.


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