Dutch director Alex Can Warmerdam’s Borgman is a twisted, dreamlike film in which “evil” comes to stay in a suburban home. Nominated for the Palme d’Or – the highest award – at Cannes Film Festival in 2013, Borgman is a beautiful film but one that leaves the audience with more questions than answers.
The film opens with a priest gathering men to head out into the forest, guns and axes in hand, to hunt down Borgman. Borgman escapes and finds his way to a suburban home where he is beaten brutally just because he wanted to take a bath. At the mercy of the matron of the household he is offered a place to stay in a separate guest house and, thus, starts the main focus of the movie: the destruction and corruption of the upper middle-class family unit.
Borgman is a beautiful film, shots are crafted to heighten the mood and are reminiscent of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games; but Funny Games inspired more than just the shots in Borgman. The way that the story is given to the audience seems to be torn directly from Funny Games; there is never an explanation to why characters take the actions they do or where they come from or even what their plan was after is has been completed. There are tons of moments added in, like the priest hunting Borgman in the beginning, that are never explained.
The most intriguing part of the film is how many ways you can read the symbolism in the film. If you want a religious reading, there’s evidence for it: the opening quote is from the bible (it’s actually a fictional quote), and the Borgman’s first name being Camiel (the same as the angel that banished Adam and Eve). Or, you can read it sociologically and remove any aspects of greater meaning. Alternatively, if you want you can imagine the whole thing exists within one character’s breakdown. The film’s meaning is as fluid as you can make it.