Quick Review & Discussion : Borgman (2014)

IMDB Score – 6.8
Rotten Tomato Score – 86%
Amazon Watch Instant

Directed By – Alex van Warmerdam
Starring – Jan Bijvoet, Hadewych Minis, Jeroen Perceval, Alex van Warmerdam, Tom Dewispelaere, and Sara Hjort Ditlevsen

A vagrant enters the lives of an arrogant upper-class family, turning their lives into a psychological nightmare in the process.

I’m going to break this up into two parts. One, a short review, and the other a short discussion. The discussion will have spoiler elements to it so don’t read it if you haven’t seen the film.

This creeped me the fuck out. Like, really did.

Borgman is a psychological thriller/overall creepfest of a movie from The Netherlands. There is a certain creepy I’m pertaining to when I describe this film. It isn’t creepy like how Zodiac, The Innkeepers, or any run of the mill ghost story is. This film relies heavily on the unsettling nature of German folklore. I’ll get to that in the part two discussion. There is just this extreme sense of unease that washes over you while you dive further into the film. There are no explanations and very few answers at first glance. It’s kind of a mystery.

The story is rather simple on the surface. A man, who doesn’t seem to really have a home, job, or purpose, successfully invades the home of an upper class family by appeasing to the wife. He stays on the property, just out of sight, getting to know the family better. What follows for the rest of the film is an assortment of what the fuck with a side of nightmare fuel. Seriously, nightmares are a big part of this film. You know, I can’t remember if there was a score or not, but if there was it was minimal. Alex van Warmerdam, the films director and supporting cast member, carefully constructs his shots that not only look beautiful, but completely add to the sense of dread and darkness that permeates from the film. It’s been described as a black comedy but I didn’t find anything funny with it. It’s also been described as a cross between Dogtooth and a Haneke film. The only real comparison I can see with Dogtooth is that it mostly takes place on the property which is very out of the way. The Haneke comparison is spot on though. There is just something about his films that etches into the brain and causes all sorts of unsettling emotions. The way Cache, one of my favorite films of all time, plays out is on par with this. We aren’t given any answers to what is going on. Any violence is disturbing, fast, and realistic. It’s unsettling because it feels real.

Haneke however has not really delved into the supernatural. This is where Borgman is unique. Sure, there aren’t creatures flying around or portals being opened. There are events and progressions that just can’t seem to be explained any other way though. It’s a genre blender and a half.

I urge you all to see this one. It’s on Amazon Watch Instant and most likely VOD. It’s a nightmare on screen without the fire and brimstone of a trip to hell. It’s thought provoking, unique, and wildly experimental. You’ll finish it without a clue in the world as to what you watched but if you’re like me, the answers will start to slowly creep in. Are these answers correct? I have no idea. It’s fun to find out though.

4.5/5




….

..

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Spoilers ahead

So I wanted to talk about this a bit, only because I seem to have stumbled across something on my own and I really want to share. Now, since I’ve written this, I’ve learned that there are a lot of other people that have come to this conclusion and that it is regarded as the intended understanding that the director wanted from his viewers.

I was watching the Netflix series “The Fall” last night. It’s a wonderful detective mini-series set in Ireland starring Gillian Anderson. Check it out. Anyway, in one of the episodes a suspect breaks into one of the police officers hotel rooms and does some snoping. When the officer returns, she finds this image as her background on her laptop…

That is a painting by Henry Fuseli called “The Nightmare”. I was fascinated by it so I decided to Google it. What I came across was that this painting was a depiction of a German folklore creature called an “Alp” or “Incubus”. This si a creature that targets mostly women and while they are sleeping, straddles them on there chest until the weight is so much that the victim wakes up and can’t move. Alps were commonly referred to as the cause of things we know now as “sleep paralysis” and “lucid dreaming”. The alp has the ability to control the nightmares of it’s victims and cannot be seen when the victim wakes up in fear.

In the, we see Borgman straddling Marina in a way that suggests he could be an Alp. Marina has nightmares that depict her husband either beating her or even attempting to murder her. This causes Marina to grow an intense hatred for her husband and a love for Borgman.

Now, my theory on who Borgman is and who his companions are is this. Borgman is an Alp and is the leader of other Alps. This explains why they all have a scar on their back. As for what is under the scar? I have no idea, but it seems to be an indication that they’re all alike. In folklore, these Alps have been connected to vampires which would kind of explain why they were sleeping underground in the beginning of the film. I think the priest and his gang find out about them and know what they’re up to. They try to kill them.

This just makes sense to me. It’s a fascinating allegory to German folklore and is just mysterious enough not to give too much away. I loved the film and and wondering if anybody else who has seen the film has any other theories as to what the fuck is going on.

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Film Review : The Rover (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 66%

Directed By – David Michôd
Starring – Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy, David Field, Tawanda Manyimo, Susan Prior, and Anthony Hayes

10 years after a global economic collapse, a hardened, ruthless ex-soldier tracks down the men who stole his only possession. As he travels through the lawless Australian outback, he takes a damaged young man as his unwitting accomplice.

A while back I wrote about the work of David Michôd. The man is responsible for one of my favorite films in the last ten years, Animal Kingdom, and after delving into his short film work and the movie “Hesher”, which he scripted, it’s safe to say he’s one of my favorite directors working today. Once I found out that The Landmark Sunshine theater in NYC was going to be getting the film a week before it’s widely released, I had to shoot down and see it. The auditorium wasn’t packed, but had a substantial amount of people in it. I made a joke to one of my friends that there were going to be women in there that were only present to see them some Robby Patt (Yes, I just made that up) and fuck me were there actually a group of girls in there that were very keen on making that fact known. I couldn’t believe it. That’s dedication guys. It’s also quite sad. Those girls did not like the movie I’m sure. I however, loved it. All my waiting and anticipation paid off because the film ended up being exactly what I wanted, a challenging and laboring work that will be both loved and hated by audiences. That is my kind of party.

The story is set in the future but there are no flying cars or androids. Without being told what happened, Australia’s economy has collapsed and spun the country into a state of free for all lawlessness with the only form of “police” coming from either rogue military groups or paid mercenaries. It’s a baron wasteland even worse than what the country was before…a baron wasteland (Please don’t hate me Jordan/Eddie). We meet a man who is given no name throughout the film, played by the outright vicious and brutal Guy Pearce. His car is stolen and he is going to get it back. Along his chase of his vehicle he runs across Ray, the brother of one of the men who stole his vehicle, played by an almost unrecognizable Robert Pattinson. Those ladies must have shit a brick when they saw his face because the heartthrob vampire was transformed into a simple, dangerous, broken, and outright ugly kid. What follows next can really only be experienced in the cinema so I’ll leave that to you.

Disregarding my joke before, I have the utmost respect and fascination with the country of Australia when it comes to film. The work coming out of there in the last few years has just been outstanding. David Michôd has stood out among the crowd and with the completion of this film, totally formed a fresh pair of eyes on the way we watch movies. He sculpts his films with meticulous care and attention while also having the skill to leave the audience in a state of utter confusion. I’ll be honest, I fought with this film. I went from loving it, to questioning it, to being shocked, to being underwhelmed, to being overwhelmed, and finally floored by the ending. The crowd I was with seemed to be going through this battle with me. As the credits rolled, groans were heard, sarcasm was spoken, but some butts, including mine, were glued to their seats. The ending was a bow on top of a mystery box that I’m sure was on the laps and minds of everyone in the theater. Why was this man doing this…for a car? Why would he go through such hardship to get his shitty four door sedan back. To be honest, I had given up hope that we would find out but the haunting final shot clued us in to what motivated a man with little to no motivation left in his life. It was a beautiful way to end a film that was so bleak and disturbing.

The film did have some flaws though. For one, the narrative was a bit clumsy in parts. That is, tense moments of horror and violence were often followed up with transition scenes that kind of killed the emotion of what just happened. There is also a terrible, terrible, use of a song in this film that just distracted and confused the entire theater. It may have been used to illustrate the mental capacity of Pattinson’s character, but it just seemed way too out of place.

Speaking of Pattinson, holy shit can that kid act. I have never seen a single Twilight film nor do I have any interest i ever seeing, but this kid is special. I remember seeing Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis” and being teased in what Pattinson could possible achieve later in his career. This film should be his break. If he was given a supporting actor nomination, I wouldn’t bat an eye. He perfected the thousand yard stare. He nailed an almost unintelligible accent. He stole every scene he was in and that was hard when realizing mostly every scene he was in was with Guy Pearce, who in my opinion gave the performance of his career. The both were powerhouses in a film with both power and unrelenting dread. They should be applauded for their work.

David Michôd crafted a beauty of a film. Each shot is crafted so well with full detail that it’s hard to not find the hell that the film was set in beautiful. The rolling hills played like a second character as we are reminded in nearly every shot that there is something bigger than us and that if we are not careful, we will fall. The score, when not being played on the radio by Pattinson, was eerie and dark as the violence carried out. It kept me glued to the screen waiting for what was going to happen next even though I was sure nothing was around the corner. It was an immersing and unflinching watch in where even if you don’t buy into the film, you can still be entertained.

Overall it was a slightly flawed, but nearly brilliant film by David Michôd. The last twenty minutes or so, including that ending, was some of the best film making I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a film that will be talked about and debated on whether it is too pretentious and whether or not it takes itself too seriously. Much like Animal Kingdom, which is slightly the superior film as of now, The Rover requires multiple viewings to fully digest but it’s a wonderful thing when something can get so much use.

4.5/5




Film Review : The Past (2013)

IMDB Score – 8.0
Rotten Tomato Score -94%
Golden Globe Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film
Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress (Bérénice Bejo)

Directed By – Asghar Farhadi
Starring – Bérénice Bejo, Ali Mosaffa, Tahar Rahim, Pauline Burlet, Elyes Aguis, Jeanne Jestin, and Sabrina Ouazani

An Iranian man deserts his French wife and her two children to return to his homeland. Meanwhile, his wife starts up a new relationship, a reality her husband confronts upon his wife’s request for a divorce.

Right now, as I’m writing this, there is a little boy running around on the floor above me. I think he is playing baseball and I think he has hit for a cycle. Part of me wants to go up there and knock on the door which will ultimately start a fight with the parents. Part of me just wants to deal with it because I’m going to ruin the fun that kid is having. I’m ultimately choosing to let the kid have his fun. It’s a small action that could have avoided some serious stress in that kids life by seeing his parents argue with a much younger snobby asshole like myself. I mention this little tidbit of information because kids today have it rough. I’m not talking about the kids who are given X-Boxes because they asked for one of the ones whose parents pay for their college tuition that they will ultimately lose because they got drunk every day and failed out of their classes. What I’m talking about are the kid who grow up in broken homes…the kids who have to bear(this word usage seems funny but I looked it up. It’s correct) witness to their parents fighting and splitting up. Parents usually think about the kids, but they usually just think of where to store them like they’re boxes of hats that won’t fit in the closet. “The Past” explores these stresses of living in a stressful home but also explores the stress and guilt of being an adult and deciding to have/leave relationships. It ended up being a fantastic film which is now to be expected from a present day master of drama like Asghar Farhadi.

When I saw “A Separation” two years ago, I immediately ordered the blu ray. I haven’t given it a second viewing yet, but I am meaning to considering how much I loved the tension in that film. “The Past” is a lot of like “A Separation” in terms of theme. Both deal heavily with the relationship/ships of a married couple and the effect it has on the surrounding parties, usually the kids. The area in which the two differ is in the amazing portrayals of the characters by the cast. Both movies, which seem alike, couldn’t be more different when you look at the performances in each film. I’m not saying one film is better than the other but rather saying that both films have unique and unforgettable characters. It’s the driving force of the films besides the dramatic and very bleak subject matter.

First off, I didn’t even recognize Bérénice Bejo until I saw her name at the end. This might have to do with her hair being long instead of short like it was in “The Artist” but it just caught me by surprise. It also took me some time to realize that Tahar Rahim was starring in the role as it has been some time since I saw the crime masterpiece that is “A Prophet”. This just happened to give me a slight edge in being completely surprised and impressed with the acting. Bejo plays Marie, a mother of two who has recently began seeing Samir, quietly played by Rahim. Samir is still married but his wife has been in a coma for eight months. If that wasn’t scandalous enough, Marie’s “es husband” Ahmad, played by Ali Mosaffa, is in town to sign the final divorce papers and Marie has invited him to stay at their home. Doesn’t that just sound like the worst fucking episode of “General Hospital” ever? Honestly, the details of the film pushed me away for a while. It came off a little to soap opera for me but when I saw the reviews and of course who directed it, I couldn’t resist any longer. My roommate even mentioned, after reading the disc sleeve, that he hoped I enjoyed my soap opera for the next two hours. Luckily for me, the film was much more than that.

Dealing with a complex plot, the film took it’s time with letting everything play out. I’m glad they did this otherwise it would have lost many of its viewers. In doing so however, the film dragged. I’ve been a self proclaimed lover of slow burns but there were two instances in the film where I had to pause and stretch my legs. The film though, never let my attention slip. I was certainly embedded in the story that was unfolding. I cared about the characters and the choices they made. It was just a long haul. This is really the only “negative” aspect of the film and honestly it isn’t really a negative.

The film deals heavily with the theme of suffering and guilt. Everybody is going through serious shit in this film. The kids are miserable at times due to the fact that they see stress filled screaming matches and passive aggressive smoking sessions in the same hour. The oldest daughter can’t stand being at home because of teh situation, which only makes her mother angrier, making the situation worse. Ahmad comes into the picture to sign the divorce and becomes sort of middle man between the daughter and mother, mopping up what has been spilled all over the floor. Farhadi uses symbolism outstandingly in the film as there is literally at one point, a can of paint spilled all over the floor which Ahmad steps in to clean up, even though he really has no reason to considering it isn’t his house. Another scene has Ahmad fixing a sink pipe for no reason other than to fix it. I love little direction details like that. It’s the first sign of a well written film. Farhadi also implements a character that is literally never on screen (except for one brief second), which is Samir’s wife who is in a coma. In essence, she is the most important character in the film considering all of the fighting and sadness revolves around her situation. It’s a clever way to construct a story around when we never see the reason why all these fights are happening. We get to see the drama from different points of view, but never from the point of view of the subject. “The Descendants” did a similar thing which is what made the ending of that film so powerful, even though I believe “The Past” has an even better ending.

Overall the film was a heavy experience on what it is like trying to live in the present when you haven’t cleaned up your past yet. Decisions that are made carry through until they are resolved. In one point in the film Samir tells Marie that “When two people see each other after 4 years and still fight together, it shows that there is something unsolved between them.” It’s a wonderful line that beautifully describes many of the themes that are going on during the duration of the film. The ending of the film just goes to show that even if two people are the furthest away that they can be, their past can be the only thing that brings them back together. It was one of the most touching and poetic endings I’ve seen in a long time. I actually went back and watched it four times because of how beautiful it is. It was a cherry on top of an excellent film by Asghar Farhadi as he continues to sit on his throne as the master of family drama.

4.5/5




Film Review : Antichrist (2009)

IMDB Score – 6.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 48%
Netflix Watch Instant
Best Actress at Cannes Film Festival – Charlotte Gainsbourg

Directed By – Lars Von Trier
Starring – Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg

A grieving couple retreat to their cabin in the woods, hoping to repair their broken hearts and troubled marriage. But nature takes its course and things go from bad to worse.

That was the worst handjob of all time. I’m not going to explain this. This is my way of having fun with you.

So tonight I sat down to watch “Antichrist”, a film which I have been putting off for some time now. Why was I putting it off? Well, Lars Von Trier makes a living out of tearing my heart out of its chest, spitting on it, and throwing it overhand back into my rib cage without any form of courtesy or apology. My first exposure to the man was “Dancer in the Dark”. What a wonderful film to start what would be an on going love affair with the man. I’ve always been drawn towards music and film that go against the grain. I like when people think out of the box and present us with something new. I also appreciate going to dark places where most filmmakers are afraid to go in fear of alienating their audience. Lars Von Trier doesn’t give a shit. He’s going to make his films the way he wants to. The man is a mad genius. He’s constantly pushing the envelope to new heights and I’ve always appreciated that. While my admiration for him is still as high as it has ever been, this film unfortunately did not further heighten my opinion of the man. This was my first Von Trier miss.

After viewing the film I did a little research and found out that Von Trier was going through a hell of a depression when writing/making this film. Holy shit did it show. The story revolves around a couple who had recently lost a child because they were too busy having loud sex in snowstorm. I had no idea Willem Dafoe was so well endowed. No I do. Thanks Lars Von Trier. I had always wondered what the mans package looked like and you have delivered on all fronts. The couple soon realizes that they are in a world of misery and Willem Dafoe’s character, who is a licensed therapist, decides that they should both go into the woods and live in a cabin for a few days. This is where the horror begins. This is where I stop describing the plot.

If you have ever had a messy room before then you’ll understand what I mean when I say this film is messy. All the parts of a coherent story line are in the film except they are in places that just don’t make much sense. I lost a lot of the surprise and meaning of the film because I was being bombarded by random acts of supernatural occurences involving animals and plants. The film is about the evil of nature. I understand this. I understand it more since the film ended however. During the film they hinted at it a couple times but eventually went into full on “spelling it out” mode by the films end. I would have appreciated a little more subtly, by which I mean letting me figure it out by myself, towards the end of the film. I didn’t get that. Instead I got some very disturbing images that I’m not going to be able to scrub thoroughly enough from my brain. I’m am going to have nightmares tonight and I don’t even own a vagina. Again, I’m not going to explain that.

Going through depression is hard. I’ve been there. Lots of people have been there and I’ll venture that most of them have had it worse than me. I was willing to stick with the film during the first half where we see the stages of grief in full play. Once we took our trip to the woods however, the stages of depression suddenly jumped a few gears into full blown lunacy. I was honestly taken aback by it. It was like a light was switched and all of a sudden we have a grotesque horror film. Perhaps this was intended? I know serious depression comes in waves. Sometimes these waves come in with more intensity as time goes by. If Von Trier was going for that then I can say I honestly get what he was trying to do albeit he decided to do so in an odd fashion. Again, subtly would have been nice here.

A lot of people compare this film with “Melancholia”, which is a film that I loved. I get this. Both deal with depression and it’s different forms. “Melancholia” however was a slow burning descent into the illness where “Antichrist” was like a slow jog into depression that turned into a dead sprint to hell. Insanity finally turned its ugly head and I found myself just wondering where my slow paced character study went. Now, this isn’t to say I hated the film. I didn’t. I just had major issues with the foundation of the film.

One thing about Von Trier is that he is incredibly gifted behind the camera. Like all of his films, the cinematography is gorgeous. His usually opening of a slow mo prologue was one of the prettiest intros I’ve seen in a long time except for that wonderful shot of Dafoes dong. I could have done without that. The film was dark. There were very few colors involved and I think this was intentional given the nature of the film. The acting was also very good. Both the leads had great chemistry and while they were trying to sex each other during about half the film, the other half was a great back and forth of body language and eye movement. Gainsbourg deserved her award. Hell, I’d say that any actress that has to work with Von Trier deserves an award after reading so much on what he puts them through. I guess that is the mark of a great director though. Alfred Hitchcock was notorious for destroying the souls of his actresses and now I guess Von Trier has grabbed the torch.

Overall I can’t say I’d watch the film again. I’m glad I got it out of the way but disappointed I didn’t enjoy it nearly like I enjoy his other films. The insane train that the film turned into was too much for me and eventually I just wanted to get off it. Also, if you have genitalia of any kind, do not watch this film.

2.5/5




Film Review : Nebraska (2013)

IMDB Score – 8.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 92%

Directed By – Alexander Payne
Starring – Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, and Stacy Keach

An aging, booze-addled father makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize.

I’ve finally been able to get to the theater this week and while I still have to see “American Hustle” and “Wolf of Wall Street”, I decided to see this first in case it is no longer in theaters next week. I think I still have plenty of time to see the other two. My local art theater was still running it albeit in the smallest theater imaginable but I left satisfied.

Alexander Payne has always been a director whose work I enjoy. I haven’t seen a single film of his that I didn’t like and while he doesn’t have a flat out masterpiece in his body of work, he never fails to entertain or tell a good story. I think Nebraska might just end up being my favorite film of his.

First off, the cinematography in this is amazing. Phedon Papamichael did a phenomenal transforming the dull bland landscape of Nebraska and Montana into very pretty images of desolation and despair. I live in New Jersey. I have always lived in New Jersey. When I decide to move away from here I’m either going north/south or all the way out west because I don’t think I could last in that environment. I’ve never seen streets that empty besides Christmas morning and even then there are still people buzzing about. The minimalist way they decided to shoot this film, with the long wide angle shots of rolling hills and baron landscape made for a very relaxing and peaceful watch. I just don’t think I could live in such a place.

The film ended up being a lot funnier than I thought it was going to be as it captured the “culture” of living in such places hilariously. Mundane conversations and one worded answers have never been so funny. One review I read claimed that the film was like visiting his relatives so I’m guessing the film portrayed life out there pretty well. Bars with the same people in it that have been going there for 40 years and shops and stores that went out of business decades ago litter the main drag of the town of Hawthorne, where most of the film takes place. Bruce Dern, who plays the character of Woody, stops there on his way to Lincoln to collect his million dollars which he is convinced he won. Woody grew up there and the people he used to be around are still there after all these years, not having moved or changed an inch. It is there that the bulk of the story takes place as old friends and family try to cash in on their friends recent claim to fortune.

The acting was fantastic in this. Bruce Dern and June Squibb, who plays his crass and resentful wife Kate, were both hilarious. Dern did a remarkable job playing a lost and confused old man trying desperately to find meaning in his life. Squibb stole pretty much every scene she had as more and more horrible things came out of her mouth as if she had no idea anybody else around her would be offended. One particular scene at a cemetery had me dying as the respect for the dead was just non existent. Will Forte and Bob Odenkirk, two actors who are known for their comedy work, did a great job portraying the sons of Dern and Squibb who are trying to distance themselves from their old stomping grounds. Forte was especially charming.

The film displayed themes of family and greed while also sticking to the comedy that is just oozing out of the midwest. People from the area might not even find the humor in it because it was just so subtle. The whole theater was cracking up watching eight men sit and stare at a television without saying a word until somebody asks another “you still got that old chevy?”…”Yep.”

If you can get out to see it please do. It’s going to be a wonderful rainy day film for me when released on blu ray and is a gorgeous film to be seen on the big screen. Its Payne at his absolute driest bbut also at his funniest.

4.5/5