BORGMAN (2014) Jan Bijvoet, Hadewych Minis, Jeroen Perceval, Sara Hjort Ditlevsen, Eva van de Wijdeven, Annet Malherbe, Tom Dewispelaere, Alex van Warmerdam. Directed by Alex van Warmerdam
Dutch filmmaker Alex van Warmerdam's new film opens with the quote "And they descended upon the earth to strengthen their ranks," a suitable way to start this eerie and enigmatic journey.
Resembling a cross between Nick Nolte in Down and Out in Beverly Hills and actor Peter Stormare, we first encounter Camiel Borgman (Jan Bijvoet) living underground in the woods, his lair camouflaged by the earth and nature that surrounds him, his two associates nearby in similar bunkers. Three fully armed men led by a priest and a canine enter the woods, their swift stride and determined looks indicate they mean business, and using long poles they begin to pierce the ground searching for Borgman and his colleagues. It's a riveting scene that launches this peculiar and mysterious tale.
They eventually elude the hunters and escape to nearby suburbia where we meet Richard (Jeroen Perceval), his wife Marina (Hadewych Minis), their three kids, and Stine (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen) the children's young nanny. When Borgman knocks on the family's door and asks if he can take a bath there because he's dirty, it leads to hothead Richard beating him severely and wife Marina feeling sorry for the vagrant looking individual. When Richard leaves for work she hides Borgman in a guest cottage where she agrees to let him stay for a few days underneath the radar. Soon he's sneaking in to the house, taking baths, and telling bedtime stories to the children. The mood becomes increasingly unsettling as the story progresses and tensions mount.
Part of this film's intoxicating allure is that writer and director Alex van Warmerdam throws out suggestions that are left for the audience to interpret. The identity of Borgman and his associates is never clearly laid out but the negative and disturbing influence on this family is evident by their actions and the choices they make. Evil's reach is far and wide, what path will you take when it comes knocking on the door?
(3 1/2 stars)
*Now showing at the Alamo Drafthouse Mason Park (Houston), Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park (Houston), Alamo Drafthouse Westlakes (San Antonio)
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