Monday, August 11, 2014


I don't have much luck with surreal films. Most of them turn out to be much worse to watch than to read about. Luckily Borgman is a rare exception. Borgman himself is a vagrant. The film starts with him on the run from armed hunters, he warns confederates, Pascal and Ludwig, before hitching a ride to an affluent leafy suburb. There he tries to beg a bath and gets beaten up for his troubles. Sympathy from Marina (his attacker's wife) is his key into their house.

Much of the surrealism comes from the abnormal, unexplained and anti-social behaviour of Borgman and his accomplices. Though unusual and unexplained coincidences abound (why do whippets keep popping up?). The shifting relationship between Borgman and Marina is the core of the film. Marina moves from sympathy, to curiosity, to longing, while Borgman alternates effortlessly between victim and aggressor.

Our society works to a huge extent because in any given circumstance almost everyone behaves in one of a limited number of ways. This gives someone who is willing to ignore these strictures on behaviour the opportunity to get away with doing the most outrageous things (though perhaps only once). Borgman plays with this characteristic of society just enough to shock us from time to time while making most of the film seem plausible.

The humour in Borgman is dark and motivations of Borgman and his pals are obscure. None of the characters, not even the children, are innocent. There is a plot to this film even though some aspects are unexplained (and probably unexplainable). The balance between the 'real' and the surreal was just right for my literalist tastes.

Ian's rating 4/5

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