Writer-director Alex van Warmerdam’s story centers on an evil spirit called Borgman (Jan Bijvoet), who, in the guise of a big-bearded vagabond seeking a bath, and later a clean-shaven gardener, tricks his way into the pristine abode of comfortable suburbanites Richard (Jeroen Perceval) and Marina (Hadewych Minis) and their brood. Assisted by cohorts and employing sometimes murderous tactics, Borgman turns Marina against Richard, wins over the kids and nanny, and increasingly exerts control over the family.
Bringing to mind Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games” and “Cache” and, to a lesser degree, the bourgeoisie-skewering works of Claude Chabrol, while also featuring a wildly original fabular tone, the film is shocking, funny and creepy, and splendidly acted.
But ultimately, it is too fuzzy in explaining the title character’s motivations and methods, and whether his victims’ warped behavior is due to his evil intervention or the result of class-related mind-sets.
Starring Jan Bijvoet, Hadewych Minis, Jeroen Perceval
Written and directed by Alex van Warmerdam
Running time 1 hour, 53 minutes