Dutch auteur Alex van Warmerdam (Abel aka Voyeur, De Jurk aka The Dress) is a filmmaker whose works I tend to consider hit or miss, but are certainly never boring. Personally, I was ready to give up on van Warmerdam after Grimm—a botched modernist reworking of the popular European fairytale Brother and Sister written by the Brothers Grimm, who have most certainly been one of the greatest influences on the Dutch filmmaker—but then he made his near-masterpiece Borgman (2013), which is certainly his greatest and most ambitious effort since his second feature De Noorderlingen (1992) aka The Northerners. Like most of van Warmerdam’s films, Borgman is a darkly humorous, nihilistic, and rather misanthropic anti-bourgeois neo-fable of sorts, but what makes it somewhat different than the director’s previous works is that it is his closest thing to a ‘horror’ film, though certainly not in the conventional sense of the genre. The first Dutch film in 38 years to be selected to compete in the Cannes Film Festival for the coveted Palme d'Or (Jos Stelling’s beauteously brutal directorial debut Mariken van Nieumeghen (1974) was the first and last film to compete in the festival before van Warmerdam’s film was accepted), the film is a pernicious piece of antichrist celluloid metaphysics where pure and unadulterated, yet admittedly charming and sophisticated, evil prevails in the end. Indeed, aside from its idiosyncratically incendiary humor and post-Grimmian storytelling, van Warmerdam’s fiercely farcical filmic fable is anti-Hollywood to its cold black dead core in that all of modern Americanized western man’s dreams are meticulously destroyed in an intriguingly slow-burning fashion that destroys the viewer’s world and takes them to hell in about 110 minutes or so.
In a June 5, 2014 interview featured at Dangerous Minds, van Warmerdam confesses regarding the eponymous ‘antihero’: “He is an evil version of myself. He does what I would do if I were him.” In a storyline that is superficially similar to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Teorema (1968), Borgman depicts an enigmatic stranger entering an oh-so ostensibly perfect bourgeois home and slowly but surely ‘seducing’ virtually every single family member in a somewhat inexplicable, quasi-supernatural fashion. Featuring blatant references to Swiss painter Henry Fuseli’s masterwork The Nightmare (1781), the film features an antihero that looks like a deranged hobo but is ultimately an evil being whose behavior resembles that of the incubus-like ‘Alp’ of German folklore. It should also be noted that the titular character’s first name is ‘Camiel’ and he becomes the gardener of the main family featured in the film, as ‘Camael’ is one of the seven archangels of the Bible and is claimed to be the leader of the forces that got Adam and Eve expelled from the Garden of Eden. Notably, van Warmerdam was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church, which refuses to recognize Camael because of the Vatican’s decision to ban the veneration of angels that are not mentioned in the Bible, thus reflecting the Dutch auteur filmmaker’s innately heretical essence. Indeed, Borgman is a work where the figurative ‘Adam and Eve’ are ‘banished’ from their suburban ‘paradise’ on earth, the bourgeois utopian ideal is deconstructed and ripped to shreds, and the bad guys win, among various other uniquely unsavory and superlatively subversive sacrilegious things that make van Warmerdam seem like one of the most spiritually forsaken yet comically clever filmmakers in cinema history.
Opening with the foreboding pseudo-Biblical quote, “And they descended upon the earth to strengthen their ranks,” Borgman instantly establishes a supernatural horror mood that is only further accentuated when a super stoic Catholic priest (Pierre Bokma) with a shotgun and two brutish looking dudes with bad ass attitudes attempt to hunt down and presumably kill a hobo that lives in a sort of makeshift bunker in the woods. The hobo in question is named ‘Camiel Borgman’ (Belgian actor Jan Bijvoet) and he bears a striking resemblance to the eponymous character played by John Barrymore in Svengali (1931). Unluckily for the main middle-class family featured in the film, Borgman manages to escape from the martial priest via a tunnel connected to his underground home and subsequently warns his equally hobo-like comrades Ludwig (director Alex van Warmerdam) and Pascal (Tom Dewispelaere) to escape as well. Somewhat strangely, Borgman thinks it is a good idea to enter an opulent bourgeoisie neighborhood with large houses featuring modern architecture where he proceeds to knock on the doors of random people and asks them if he can bathe in their homes, which he is routinely denied. When Borgman knocks on the door of a middle-age corporate workaholic family man named Richard (Jeroen Perceval) and pretends to be know his blonde wife Marina (Hadewych Minis), he is nearly beaten half to death and then subsequently disappears seconds later seemingly into thin air, though the sinisterly manipulative meta-Machiavellian hobo never actually leaves the property. Indeed, Richard seems to wisely sense there is something ominous and threatening about Borgman and instinctively physically ravages the blatantly dubious vagrant, who actually has the gall to get smart and arrogant with the man whose bathtub he so arrogantly demands to use. Falling victim to irrational female style empathy and the sort of liberal humanist brainwashing you tend to suffer if you watch too much TV or attend a liberal arts college, Marina feels sorry for dirty bum bastard Borgman and when she notices the antagonist squatting in her shed later that night while her husband is at work, she does not call the police but instead absurdly invites him into her home to take a luxury bath where he enjoys a nice meal, wine, and cable television while sitting in the tub. Of course, little does hopelessly naive Marina realize that Borgman will eventually take over her home, family, and entire life, among other things.
Despite the fact that she does not work and spends most of her time playing around and creating degenerate Pollack-esque paintings by literally flinging paint on a large canvas, Marina has her three small grade school children watched and taken care of by a young maid named Stine (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen), who the female protagonist warns to not tell her husband about the fact that Borgman is squatting in their shed. Rather curiously, Marina’s youngest daughter Isolde (Elve Lijbaart) falls ill after Borgman moves in and the seemingly demonic antihero soon uses the opportunity to brainwash the young girl with seemingly satanic stories like ‘The Story of the White Child that Floats Above the Clouds.’ In fact, Borgman begins regularly telling all three children nighttime stories about how Jesus Christ is a liar and a banal narcissist who does not care about anyone but himself. Ultimately, by telling the children these stories, Borgman manages to become the sole paternal influence, as the kids' father is also depicted telling them stories but he is nowhere as near as good of a storyteller and seems like an over-the-hill meathead jock philistine compared to the spiritually deleterious vagrant, who utilizes lies and superficial charm to corrupt the souls of his all-too-human prey. Aside from being able to brainwash Marina to begin hating her husband by sitting unclad on her body while she is asleep like the incubus in Fuseli’s painting The Nightmare, Borgman also has the power to talk to animals, namely dogs, who soon begin roaming the bourgeois family’s home and may or may not be the antihero’s comrades Ludwig and Pascal in animal form. Aside from Ludwig and Pascal, two similarly swarthy guidette-like women, the middle-aged Brenda (van Warmerdam’s wife Annet Malherbe) and 30-something-year-old Ilonka (Eva van de Wijdeven), also ‘work’ for Borgman, who he communicates with via cellphone. Ultimately, Borgman will use his loyal menacing collectivist-minded minions to help him take over both Richard and Marina’s home and family. Quite notably, all of the members of Borgman’s group have a scar on their back near their shoulder blade, as if they have been given some sort of satanic surgery that has programmed them to become evil followers of the almost seemingly undead sort. Naturally, Richard and Marina's children and maid Stine will also become unwitting victims to this exceedingly energumenical esoteric influence.
Needless to say, it does not take Marina long to completely fall under Borgman’s uniquely unscrupulous spell and when the antihero decides to leave after complaining that he is bored because he cannot roam around her house freely, the pathetically lonely and seemingly sex-starved housewife becomes desperate and agrees to a curious arrangement that ultimately results in the slow and painful death of the nice elderly family gardener. With the help of his demonesses Brenda and Ilonka, Borgman kills the gardener and his wife, drops their corpses in a lake after attaching a plant pot full of cement to their heads, and then takes over their home as if they are assuming their identities. By shaving his head and beard and sporting a fancy new suit, Borgman manages to obfuscate his identity and is instantly hired by superficial and vain ‘bourgeois-minded’ Richard, as the new gardener, though Ludwig and Pascal also help him obtain the job. Indeed, knowing that Richard is a ‘racist’ who does not want dirty untermenschen roaming around his property and have easy access to his young children and frigid wife, Ludwig and Pascal pay shabbily-dressed bum-like Arabs and negroes to apply for the gardener job so that Borgman comes out looking like the only decent and worthy candidate. When a nice looking old white fellow attempts to apply for the job, Ludwig grabs him before he reaches the front-door of Richard's home and proceeds to brutally beat him. When Richard and Marina’s youngest daughter Isolde, who has completely fallen under Borgman’s sinister spell and whose eyes indicate that she seems dead inside, later finds the old man in the woods, she kills the poor old bastard by crushing his skull with a cement block. Ultimately, moronic Richard is so impressed with Borgman that he not only hires him for the gardening job, but also allows him to stay in a luxury room in their family home and Ludwig and Pascal are soon brought in as ‘assistants.’ While transforming Richard and Marina's garden from a suburban Garden in Eden into a subtly ominous Garden of Evil, Borgman and his chthonian comrades begin putting the final touches on their metaphysically malefic master plan that only the children seem to truly understand.
Naturally, when workaholic Richard unexpectedly loses his much cherished job as an ass-licking corporate whore, he is destroyed, so when maid Stine brings her masculine military recruit boyfriend Arthur Stornebrink (Mike Weerts) over for dinner one night and the family man realizes he is the son of the boss that fired him, a fight breaks out that rather repels Marina, who now hates her hubby and has become completely infatuated with Borgman, who tells her that he will not have sex with her until the time is right, as if the carnal act will be of spiritual proportions. Of course, Borgman has nil interest in Marina and is just stringing the hopelessly horny housewife along so that he can fulfill his particularly pernicious plan. When all three of the children become ill, Borgman has his demoness Brenda come by in the guise of a doctor and she somewhat humorously describes the kid’s sicknesses as being the result of being “overtired” from the “modern world,” adding,“Don’t forget they have a lot to cope with these days: TV, internet, school. In the holidays the child’s body will give up.” To keep Marina and her children in check, Borgman and his pals also begin drugging the family, with Ludwig and Pascal even taking the three kids into a sewer where they supply them with a dubious red liquid that resembles Kool-Aid. When Borgman induces a nightmare in Marina where she has her skin ripped off her flesh by her husband during a heated sex session, she wakes up enraged and nonsensically punches her sleeping hubby in the head, so the decidedly disrespected family man fights back by smacking her around and then subsequently drags her into a bathroom where he forces her to take a cold shower. Needless to say, Marina is rather pissed about being smacked around by her much hated hubby Richard, so she asks Borgman to kill him. Ultimately, Richard is poisoned after Borgman’s minions perform a sort of sinisterly high-camp garden-based opera featuring Ilonka performing ballet and Ludwig and Pascal in drag sporting tights and tutus. After Richard croaks, Borgman’s demons perform ‘back surgery’ on Stine and assumedly the kids, thus leaving them with the same back scars as the antihero and his comrades. While Marina expects sex from Borgman, the antihero predictably poisons her as well. In the end after Richard and Marina are killed and buried in their yard, Borgman leaves the home with his comrades and brings the three children and Stine with them. Like all evil psychopathic leaders ranging from Trotsky to Obama that thrive on lies to maintain power and to get their followers to mindlessly support and/or carry out the most dastardly and despicable of deeds, Borgman understands that to make someone your spiritual slave they still have to be young and impressionable enough, hence his decision to spare none of the adults just as the bolsheviks spared none of the white Russians, especially not the priests, intellectuals, and members of the aristocracy. In that sense, in few other films does evil triumph in such an effortless and seemingly immaculate fashion than in Borgman.
Unquestionably, Borgman can be interpreted in a variety of ways, both materialistically and metaphysically, but some things are quite certain like its flagrant anti-bourgeois and ultimately ethno-masochistic message. Indeed, aside from a scene where Richard is depicted as a big mean racist who turns down poor brown people of various shades for the gardener job, the same character defends his so-called ‘white privilege’ after his wife complains she feels guilty due to their European opulence by stating, “We were born in the West, and the West happens to be affluent. We can’t help it.” Of course, auteur Alex van Warmerdam demonstrated his sad groveling sense of white guilt and ethno-masochism in The Northerners, which not only portrays traditionalist Dutch folk as sadistic perverts, rapists, murderers, and schizophrenic religious fanatics but also pays quirky tribute to Congolese independence leader and Pan-African revolutionary Patrice Émery Lumumba, as well as features a negro tribesman blinding a ‘fascistic’ hunter of the symbolically sexually impotent sort. Despite the film’s dubious, convoluted message, Borgman can luckily also be interpreted in the opposite way that the director probably intended, especially considering that the eponymous villain looks just like Svengali who, as depicted in George du Maurier's 1895 novel Trilby, is a Jew with Eastern European origins who, aside from seducing and manipulating young girls, also bullies and utilizes cynical humor like the character in van Warmerdam’s film. The fact that the antihero also first targets the women and children while sneakily isolating them from the unwitting father is also a method that the Judaic cultural marxists of the Frankfurt School have used to undermine and destroy white western man via feminism, multiculturalism, so-called ‘sexual liberation,’ and various other slave-morality-inclined underhanded weapons based on great lies that only the figurative synagogue of satan could contrive. After all, like Borgman, world Judea tends to corrupt a society from within, infecting and subverting every imperative cultural, moral, and spiritual tradition of its host until it is only a distorted shell of what is used to be as especially reflected in the contemporary West. The fact that Borgman drugs his victims just like contemporary western school teachers and psychiatrists recommend parents do to their children if they have a hard time adjusting to the globalist anti-Occidental multiculturalist LGBT-friendly program just goes to show that van Warmerdam's work is probably the only modern filmic fable that manages to capture spiritual afflictions of our conspicuously corrupt and amazingly morally inverted contemporary zeitgeist, which absurdly values the weak over the strong and emphasizes the minority over the majority. Interestingly, the family featured in the film is not very sympathetic, thus hinting that the West is already so forsaken in its malignant moral bankruptcy that its defeat by pure evil is nothing short of inevitable. Of course, the greatest irony is that Borgman and the rest of van Warmerdam’s oeuvre could have only been created in a spiritually sick and racially and culturally deracinated nation that has succumbed to the darker side, thus the Dutch auteur must feel blessed in his own warped sort of way. Despite van Warmerdam’s questionable views of his own people and culture, Borgman indubitably follows in a rich Dutch artistic tradition dating back to paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and Jan Brueghel the Elder in its modernist interpretation of the Garden of Eden. Indeed, as much as van Warmerdam might resent it, he is unquestionably a product of his culture, people, and religion as is so idiosyncratically and iconoclastically expressed in Borgman, which is a work that could only have been directed by a degenerate post-WWII Germanic mensch who can only laugh at the idea of a figurative hell on earth and world in flames.