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Report: Cannes 2013

Dutch film Borgman by Alex Van Warmerdam intrigues Cannes audience

Still from "Borgman" by Alex Van Warmerdam
Still from "Borgman" by Alex Van Warmerdam Festival de Cannes

Borgman, written and directed by Alex Van Warmerdam, is one of 20 films competing for the Palme d'Or, the Golden Palm. And it’s the first time a Dutch film has made it to the big prize for almost 40 years.


Van Warmerdan, who also acts in the film, playing the role of Borgman's accomplice, has his roots in theatre, and this marks the film in a creative unrealistic way .

Audio report

The movie begins with a woodman’s breakfast of pickled herring in a hut in a forest. It’s rapidly followed by a priest breaking a communion wafer inside a church and then picking up a double-barrel shot-gun.

They are hunting some men who live in some burrow-like homes in the woods. And the music sounds like its adapted from a western. We know there’s some kind of adventure in the offing. 
Leaning towards familiar horror or myth themes, Borgman tells a story of a supposedly proper family in a smart suburban area, which descends into some sort of hell.

It begins when one of the strange and unwashed men from the woods, turns up at their door asking to bathe. His name is Camiel Borgman.

Cannes 2013

Is he some sort of holy man or unholy man?

But Van Warmerdam told RFI that while he’s not giving explanations, he tried to avoid abstraction:

“My previous films were very straightforward but I didn’t want to make my film too abstract. This time I really wanted to be more poetical, raise a question without answering it all the time. On the other hand I didn’t want to make a totally abstract film. It was a kind of game. How much information can you keep away before the audience walk away, and it’s nice to make a story which keeps you thinking…what are they doing now? what’s this?”

His 8th feature, Borgman, does raise questions. Some of us here were quite baffled, but we enjoyed the guessing game. One thing’s for sure Camiel Borgman turns the lives of the family in the film upside down, as well as their garden.

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