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"Borgman": Don't Anger the Man in the Underground Hovel 

Wednesday, Jun 18 2014

It's uncertain whether the title of Alex van Warmerdam's Borgman sounds quite as ominous in the Netherlands as it does in America, but the (surely unintentional) association with the Star Trek enemies is appropriate for this dark fable of assimilation and destruction. After a gang of shotgun-wielding priests oust the scraggly Camiel Borgman (Jan Bijvoet) from his underground shelter, he and his fellow hermits (whom he contacts via cellphone, because it's not like they're primitives or anything) slowly ingratiate themselves into the home and lives of wealthy television producer Richard (Jeroen Perceval) and his wife, Marina (Hadewych Minis), who's both intrigued by Borgman and guilty about her own privilege. Many of the details of the mind games that Camiel and his network of associates play on the family are left unexamined, and the picture is stronger for it, more concerned with creating a mood of menace than in trying to explain its often nightmarish logic. (Camiel's crew working as gardeners in the backyard while wearing suits and ties would be jarring in any other movie, but makes perfect sense here.) Borgman examines many of the same themes as other class-struggle films such as Cheap Thrills or the execrable Pain & Gain, but does so in a more abstract, and ultimately more powerful, way.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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