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 White Ribbon (2009)

IMDB Score – 7.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 85%

Academy Award Nominations
Best Cinematography
Best Foreign Language Film

Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival

Directed By – Michael Haneke
Starring – Christian Friedel, Leonie Benesch, Ulrich Tukur, Ursina Lardi, and Burghart Klau├čner

Strange events happen in a small village in the north of Germany during the years just before World War I, which seem to be ritual punishment. The abused and suppressed children of the villagers seem to be at the heart of this mystery.

If I were to name five of my favorite directors living today, Michael Haneke would not only be on that list but would be near the top. Cache is one of my favorite films of all time and I enjoyed his recent film Amour. He’s notorious for being extremely bleak and brutal in his portrayals of life but in that creates some of the most beautiful films modern cinema has ever seen. He tackled sexuality in The Piano Teacher, Alzheimer’s disease in Amour, and even torture in both versions of Funny Games. He is literally a director that makes people both fascinated and dreadful to enter a theater for two hours. This is why I love him. I love being moved and poked and prodded for a response whether good or bad. I love that he almost always leaves his viewers with more questions than answers. Lastly, I often fall in love with his camerawork. His work requires repeat viewings and while I have only sat through The White Ribbon once, I’m sure I’ll be seeing it again.

Filmed in black and white as if to automatically distance the viewer from any sort of emotional attachment to these characters. The rosy and lush countryside of Germany is now transformed into a bleak landscape reminiscent of Bela Tarr’s The Turin Horse. This is ultimately a much easier view than Tarr’s work but that is saying something all together. This is not an easy watch. Events start to unfold from the get go as the town doctor is thrown from his horse due to wire being strung across two trees. The mystery of the event only begins a series of strange occurrences that take place over the rest of the film.

Haneke is famous for his static shots where he lets the viewer play voyeur over the scene. While his technique is not used as much as his previous films we are still treated to long takes of this small German village operating as its inhabitants go about their daily lives. You really get a sense of how certain events can spread like the plague to other villagers when you live in such a small town. The children, who are really the main focus of the theme lash out and get the full force of their parents as we are treated to a view of a generation which will soon grow up to be some of the most evil people in history, the Nazis. These kids are ages five through fourteen in 1913. Do the math.

The White Ribbon ended up being a character study of how foul people can be and how witnesses of such events can keep their mouths closed for so long. The symbolism of Nazi Germany is a subtle, under the skin type affair that ties this film in a horrible bow. I highly recommend this film to people who can stomach slow burns and realistic yet disturbing events.

4.5/5