Cult Cinema: Borgman

We finally got a chance to see Borgman. Check out our review here!

"Things are about to get
VERY strange!"
There is a strange paradox in society where individuals want to be successful but at the same time they envy other’s success and wish for their downfall. This is sometimes referred to as “crab mentality” in which people push others down to their level in order to diminish their ability to improve themselves (“If I can’t have it, neither should you!”). The story goes: there is a pot full of crabs about to be boiled but none of them can escape death because they continually pull each other back into the boiling water in their desperate attempt to escape. Not one is able to get out and they all perish. 

In the Danish film Borgman, an affluent suburban family discovers that perhaps they aren’t as comfortable as they think they are and malevolent forces are at work to destroy them. Borgman starts on a mysterious note, with a derelict man named Camiel Borgman (Jan Bijvoet) who lives in an underground hovel located in a dense forest. He is being hunted by a mob of townspeople for some unknown reason and escapes by running to a rich, suburban neighborhood. He travels from door to door imploring the owners to let him come inside to bathe himself. Finally, he finds a family that lets him in and that’s where the trouble begins.

"Hello, sir. Would you like
to buy some rubber nipples?"
What is incredibly interesting about this film is that absolutely nothing that happens is ever explained. As the family interacts with Camile and his cohorts, and their lives begin to change for the worse, there is a palpable feeling of dread that develops. Each situation becomes increasingly surreal and even comical in a dark way. It’s not unlike watching a sauce slowly simmer on the stove; it never boils over and instead reduces and becomes more concentrated.
The husband and wife secretly feel guilty for how wealthy they are and in essence become crabs unto themselves. They know that they are orchestrating their own downfall but they continue anyway, perhaps in some sort of self-flagellation to punish themselves for being “lucky” enough to enjoy the finer things in life. I find this class warfare theme woven throughout the film to be somewhat unsettling but it is an idea that many people hold (even if they will not care to admit it).

This film is not unlike a modern Grimm’s fairy tale and there are some magical realism aspects to the plot. The story moves at a snail’s pace and you will need immense patience to see it all the way through. It is definitely more about the journey in this film than the end result. I found it to be alluring and mesmerizing rather than tedious as some others might. Director Alex van Warmerdam has crafted a seductive and ultimately esoteric tale for the audience to wrap their minds around.

-Michelle Kisner