Hadewych Minis

borgman 01

Editor’s note: Our review of Borgman originally ran during last year’s Cannes Film Festival, but we’re re-running it now as the film opens in limited release. Alex van Warmerdam‘s Borgman is the first Dutch film to play In Competition at Cannes in just shy of 40 years, and with its daring, deeply dark yet also rib-ticklingly amusing subject matter it unquestionably proves the country’s cinematic worthiness. Early reviews emerging from the Croisette have already compared the film to both Yorgos Lanthimos’s Dogtooth, and the more severe works of Michael Haneke, two touchstones that absolutely hit the mark. Borgman is absolutely a film best approached with only a cursory knowledge of its plot — not that van Warmerdam gives much away himself. The opening images show a disheveled middle-aged man, Borgman (Jan Bijvoet), being disturbed while sleeping in an underground compartment, at which point he flees and knocks on the door of married couple Richard (Jeroen Perceval) and Marina (Hadewych Minis). Richard turns him away after administering a harsh beating, but Marina takes sympathy and allows him to recuperate in the guest wing. However, little does she know quite what she has invited into her home. 

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While Europe has long been a great place to look for well-made horror films, the Netherlands has never been a country that made much of a mark in horror, excepting of course the work of Dick Maas. That said, writer/director Elbert von Strien looks to change that distinction with his film Two Eyes Staring, a fantastic modern ghost story that still manages to feel a little gothic. Nine-year-old Lisa (Isabelle Stokkel) is a pretty quiet girl, content to keep to herself. Her detachment from the world is mirrored in her detachment from her mother, Christine (Hadewych Minis), a woman who looks at Lisa as if she’s someone else. While not exactly cold, Christine is somehow guarded around Lisa, a fact that hasn’t escaped the little girl’s attention. Luckily Lisa has a good relationship with her father, Paul (Barry Atsma). When Christine’s mother passes away and leaves her home to her daughter despite their estrangement, the family decides to pick up and move from Holland to Belgium. Christine’s childhood home is a big, old house hiding plenty of secrets, and when Lisa starts interacting with a ghost in the house, her mother’s mysterious past is slowly revealed.

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published: 12.23.2014
B+
published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
A-


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