Dutch screen gem: 2013’s “Borgman”

by Spencer Doar

Borgman” is a perfect blend of WTF and thriller.  At its simplest, “Borgman” follows the typical, unusual stranger plotline — an odd guy strolls into the lives of a community with unforeseen consequences. 

But, similar to “Funny Games” (either version) and 2007’s Spanish twist-fest “Timecrimes,” writer/director Alex van Warmerdam’s project keeps you utterly in the dark.  There's no knowing why things are unfolding this way.  Motives are opaque.  Emotions seem misapplied.  Backstory barely exists.  

The opening introduces audiences to the stranger/vagrant, Camiel Borgman, who arises, chased by a group (whose details are again unknown), from his earthen den. He proceeds to run through the forest, waking fellow earthen slumberers and fleeing to a suburban neighborhood where he is beaten by a freaked out homeowner after asking for a shower and mentioning that he knows the man's wife.  However, said wife takes pity on Borgman, feeding, bathing and then hiding him in their three-season garden house.  From there, Borgman slowly inserts himself into the family dynamic with sinister consequences.  

As the minutes unfold, the questions pile up.  Why are these oddly sentient greyhounds prowling around the house grounds?  Why, when Borgman’s equally questionable cohorts murder people, do they opt to cement their heads and drop them in the same lake?  The film’s script is peppered with dialogue that doesn’t befit character demographics — Borgman frequently “wants to play” for example and he’s a middle aged … something — which, just adds to the confusion and suspense. Without spoiling anything, it all works, since most of these questions aren’t resolved and leave the viewer in a state of ongoing, curious disbelief. 

3.5/4  – An entirely un-Hollywood experience worth two, befuddling hours.