9 Crazy Theories to Explain the Movie Borgman

9 Crazy Theories to Explain the Movie Borgman

Borgman isn't for the faint of heart. It also isn't for those you require action to keep the narrative going. Borgman is thinking man's mindjob. Maybe a movie that requires a bit too much thinking in fact.
Reader Rating1 Votes

9 Crazy Theories to Explain the Movie Borgman… yeah, you heard that right, NINE. And nine is me barely trying. I might accidentally come up with another 5 between now and the bottom of this post to get us to an even 47! Or something. These nine were just me scribbling on a cocktail napkin without even giving it much thought. This sinematic (OK, yazzzz, that was pun level 100) experience just gushes ideas and theories that might explain this mindjob of a movie. But, be careful, you might just accidentally learn something as you are reading if you aren’t careful.

“But what the heck is a Borgman?” Yeah, well first off, it’s a crazy movie. A Dutch flick made in 2013. How does one describe it? Something of a psychological thriller maybe? If you know Funny Games, yeah, it’s cut from that cloth. Heck, it was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. And I know I can say this without a hint of over statement – it is a movie that will just rearrange your mental headspace without even breaking a sweat. Maybe it should come with a “WARNING: Potential Brain Trauma” tag on it before the movies starts unspooling? (Speaking of which, could you please sign this viewing waiver before you watch? Great, thanks for that.)

Alright, since like only a sum total of 3 of you have already seen this movie – why don’t you watch this trailer, and decide for yourself whether you should watch it or not. OK? And since all the trailers give you way too much, I’ve selected just a one minute clip from the film to give you just a feel for it.

Now, if you haven’t watched it… you can watch it here free, but with ads. Or rent it here, or here. But you can’t – I repeat – can not continue, unless you’ve already watched the film. Wish there was a laser-beam-shark gate I could deploy between this paragraph and the next. DON’T MAKE ME SIC MY LASER SHARKS ON YOU! Great. Thanks for being so accommodating.

Borgman Movie Walkthrough

Just thinking about this job of walking through this movie makes me laugh. How are we going to do this? Well, easily, we just start at the beginning right? We’ll talk about the details of what physically happens, and then we start going through all the various theories I’ve come up with to explain it. (I’ve already written that bit – yeah, I had my dessert first! hahahah.)

The movie opens with a priest, and a few other men grabbing guns, and hunting for something. Something underground. Eh? What are they doing? They know exactly where he is. World? Meet Camiel. Camiel, meet the world. What are you up to man? Cause you’ve really screwed with my head. Sorry, he can’t hear me can he? The priest and his men hack the heck out of the ground, which demolishes Camiel’s makeshift underground shelter. But he was aware they were coming. He was ready. And he slips out through a back tunnel, and he lets his two counterparts know that trouble is coming. They’ve both built shallow, coffin like shelters below the ground. (What are these guys? Vampires? Demons? Angels? Trust me, we’ll talk about that.)

After fleeing, Camiel wanders into an upscale neighborhood filled with McMansions (I literally just disappeared from writing for a solid hour of McMansion Hell reading. Literally the only blog that would make me put this one down…and if they seriously made me an offer I would do it so fast all your heads would spin into a completely detached state. Such a great website.) and attempts to get several people allow him to come in and have a bath. (I kid you not. I literally checked the translation, I was certain something was lost in translation. A BATH?!? Are you literally kidding me?) Anyway, I will make this super clear from the start. Camiel is the evil. And in horror movies, the evil is always invited in before it begins its destruction, and that is happening here too.

But eventually he comes to the door where Richard and Marina live. “Maria, you were my nurse, years ago… remember?” Richard becomes enraged by Camiel’s familiarity with his wife and beats him senseless. Marina, feeling guilty, mends Camiel’s wounds, and let’s him have his much coveted bath. (Marina – you just signed your own end. What were you thinking… I mean, I’m not saying Richard should be allowed to beat wandering vagrants senseless, but she shouldn’t have let him in. But that is the obvious statement of the day.) And then she installs him in the backyard garden shed. Because, why not?

Camiel the Vow Breaker

Camiel vows to stay out of sight, but he quickly breaks that promise and begins befriending the children behind Richard and Marina’s back. (Did you notice that one of the children’s names is Isolde? (CY this is going to be a LONG parenthetical note) As in, Tristan and Isolde? The myth? The story that influenced Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet? The story became interwoven eventually with King Arthur and The Knights of the Round Table. It’s relevant. Tristan, after killing the Irish knight Morholt, takes Isolde back for his uncle, the King of Cornwall, to marry. On the way, Isolde is given a love potion to share with the King, but instead she gives it to Tristan. The potion causes the two star-crossed lovers to fall madly in love. Isolde is eventually married to the King of Cornwall anyway and Tristan and Isolde can’t be separated. The court wants to try the two for adultery, but the pair utilize trickery in order to keep up the appearance that they aren’t fooling around. Keep up the façade of innocence. (Yes? Are you picking up what I’m putting down here? The Façade? Good. I just never know how explicit with this stuff I need to be.)

Eventually Tristan runs for it, and marries a second woman, interestingly named Isolde as well. One day though, he is injured, and Isolde2 can’t heal him. So Tristan asks I2 to call for I1 to come. And that to tell the ship’s captain, he should put up black sails if she’s not on board. White if she is. Being too injured to get up to check the window himself, he asks Isolde2 for the color of the sails. Jealous, she tells him they are black. But they were white. Tristan dies of despair. And when Isolde1 finds out he’s died, she too dies as well. A tragedy born from inappropriate desires of the two young lovers. Isolde wasn’t just a cute name for one of the kids. It was a literary allusion people. Everything matters in the films you watch – pay attention! hehehe. I took a date to go see Tristan and Isolde in Washington D.C. while in High School…and I’ve been waiting to use that knowledge for years and years and years! hahaha.)

Simultaneously, Camiel (or Anton, as the family knows him) begins infiltrating Marina’s dreams. This is either intentional on his part…or just a by-product of her fascination with this new guy in her life, which is now filled with near misses and Richard always on the verge of finding the two of them out. Realizing that Camiel isn’t going to leave, that he wants to stay, and Marina doesn’t want him to disappear from her life…Camiel asks about her attachments to the gardener. Admitting she has none, the deal is sealed.

Camiel makes some calls out to his compatriots in black (I literally have no idea what to call these for individuals. Ludwig, Pascal, Brenda, and Ilonka. Ludwig and Pascal were first seen in the forest with Camiel at the beginning. These five are sort of an unholy pentagram of evil intent.) Well, Camiel creates a poisonous blow-dart, kills the gardener, and then takes him home where Brenda and Ilonka act as if they are doctors here to help the gardener, but instead kill the gardener’s wife. After both are dead, they set their heads in cemented buckets and then toss them into a nearby lake.

Camiel applies for a role as the replacement gardener – sending in a couple of fake bad applicants, one a black man. And Richard reveals his overt racism in how he treats the man. (Don’t worry, one entire theory below is entirely about Richard’s racism.) Eventually Camiel becomes the family’s gardener, and begins work in earnest in the backyard. He is so serious about his work as a gardener, he refuses anything to do with Marina. And Marina is going out of her mind, as if she has been given a love potion herself!

All the while, Camiel is continuing to infiltrate his way into the family. He’s got the kids under his thumb so far, when one of the gardener applicants seems he might get up, and get away, Isolde (there she is again) drops a brick on his head, ending him. And Stine, the nanny, she too has been won over to the disdain of her boyfriend Arthur…who happens to be the son of Richard’s employer. Or ex-employer as fate would have it, which we find out the night that they all have dinner together.

Richard has been fired. But Stine too seems to have been given a love potion. A potion that has her fixated on Pascal. She, without hesitation or deviation, allows him to perform surgery on her – leaving a scar on her back just like the five have. And the kids too! They’ve been absconded with to receive similar surgeries as well. WHAT? What is this? It’s a vertical line next to the person’s back right shoulder blade. Huh.

9 Crazy Theories to Explain the Movie Borgman

I literally have scoured anatomical diagrams and medical journals. There is literally nothing under this location. I mean, muscle, and lung. But it’s not like an allusion-rich location… the pancreas, or the heart… or something like that. I can’t make sense of it. Maybe the mark is just a symbolic gesture – a physical manifestation of a deeper spiritual or psychological meaning? Hrm. Or maybe not. (I’ve got a theory that covers this detail. Trust me, I’m covering all the bases.) Could it just be a Pulp Fiction-esque sort of thing? We’ll delve more on this later with theory number eight I believe. But here’s a hint – what if they are removed angels wings? (Thanks CY!)

9 Crazy Theories to Explain the Movie Borgman

Eventually, Marina’s disdain for her husband, caused by her growingly horrifying nightmares of him, gets her to ask Camiel to kill her husband. “You sure?” “YES!” “Oh, OK. You talked me into it.” The entire family, including Camiel and Stine, watch as the four put on a play. It’s sort of a modernist ballet play? I have no idea. But without a doubt, the most interesting detail of the performance were the two signs, “Icn Bin, Wir Sind.” Or, “I am” – “We are.” Turns out – this has got to be, 100%, a connection to the German Philosopher Ernst Bloch. And it’s so complicated, and such an intricate story re: the connection, I’ve made it yet another theory to explain this movie.

After the ad hoc play is completed, Richard, Marina, and Camiel have a glass of wine…and Richard is poisoned. Marina gives Camiel the glass of wine to put the poison in. Marina gives the poison to her daughter Isolde, in order to have her give it to her father. Worse, she asks her to give her father a kiss (goodbye) as well. This is 100% Marina’s doing. Yeah, Camiel happened to have the poison. But everything else was Marina’s doing.

After Richard’s death, Camiel rejects Marina’s advances. Let that sink in for a moment. What does that mean? Camiel infiltrated Marina’s family under an assumed pretext of a future intimate connection. But the moment Richard was gone, all of that was shown to be a lie. He doesn’t even kiss her! hahaha. Soon after Camiel hands her a glass of wine, and she knows she is about to die. And after she dies, they dump their bodies in the pond out back. And then they cover it with dirt, and seed it…as in, they were never here. At which point, Camiel, his team, Stine and the children then depart into the forest. The End.

9 Crazy Theories to Explain the Movie Borgman

9 Theories to Explain the Movie Borgman

The theories run from the school of the literal all the way out to the purely allegorical. Which theory you will want to ascribe to will be determined on where you are approaching this movie from. I have bad news for some of you – Only the top 3 theories will be available to everyone. The rest will be held for my Patreon THiNCers. But the good news? You could become a THiNCer today as well by clicking this link right here.

Theory #1 A Psychotic Breakdown

While these theories are not being posted in any particular order, this theory may just be the most concrete, and easiest to defend. Which, for some, might just mean that it is the best possible answer to decoding this incredibly complicated puzzle. (I mean, it’s not my particular choice – but it is really plausible.) And that is, that Marina is going stark raving mad. The entirety of this movie can simply be explained by it being an extension and expansion of those bad dreams we see her having throughout the movie.

So, this theory just presumes that Camiel, the gang of Borgman, that they were all just one big hallucinogenic mental breakdown. Where this theory breaks down is the line between reality and fantasy. Where is it? Did a Camiel even exist? Did anyone die? No one died? But she dies! We watch her die. Huh. OK, so it’s a breakdown. OK. Hopefully she’s having it from the safety of a padded cell, for Richard’s and the children’s sake that is.

Theory #2 – Parable of The Revenge of White Guilt

This movie is nothing if not about affluence and white guilt. The idea of it is brought up over and over again. Camiel is a drifter… what does Richard owe this man? Anything? Nothing? The kids are given (and destroy) the best toys that the third world children can construct. Gardeners come from all over the city in order to be given a chance to work for this family. And black candidates are discarded out of hand. This movie reeks of privilege and moral superiority.

Richard dismisses the black gardener applying for the job out of hand. He beats the random homeless man asking for a bath. Richard even goes so far as to say that they shouldn’t have to pay for their luck in being born in the west. This isn’t something they should feel guilty about – it just is what it is. But what if the entirety of this movie is all about that assumption being false? Of the underdeveloped countries getting their revenge? What if it is about the comeuppance of the first world and the moral debt they’ve accrued from the beginning of time? What would that look like? Could it be that it takes the form of children and homeless people moving from house to house, and murdering us all in our sleep as we continue to make cold, calculatingly calloused decisions? Huh… maybe?

Theory #3 – Ernst Bloch is our Answer

This bit about the “I am. We are” signs in the play? This really bothered me. That is, until I uncovered this German Philosopher named Ernst Bloch. Here are the opening lines to his philosophical treatise The Spirit of Utopia:

Just hold it all together for me, okay? You can do this. (Yes, I’m talking to myself, not to you.) So, Bloch melded Messianism and Marxism. (That alone should pop your head clean off. It did mine anyway.) In his manifesto he concentrated on self-encounters that grappled with the possibility and problem of a possible future community to come. It is this “we-problem” which is worked out by Bloch in the idea of self-encounters. These encounters are the fights for freedom and social justice under the modus operandi of Marx. And as I read through the book, it becomes more and more clear that he is declaring, exclaiming for, man to head towards an improved future. That the universe, the world, mankind, are all transitioning from a primordial cause, and towards some better final goal. And ultimately, this final goal would come via this idea of self-encounters. Internal epiphanies? Or even violent revolutionary personal improvements. (Not 100% clear on how exactly he believed this revolution would occur.) But, as a result, it’s key to understand that this would come through liberation theology. Which, is just a movement in Christian theology, crafted by Catholics, that emphasize liberation from social, political, and economic oppression as an anticipation of ultimate salvation.

So, if I connect “I am. We are.” back to our man Camiel, I would say that he is this spirit of this Bloch radical reformation, or Marxist revolutionary and theological change. Camiel and his band of misfits are violently bringing about this new awakening of what is really important. That we are going from a state of primordial to a future state of we. But that we can’t get there without some epiphanic realization. An awakening to this new collective future. Camiel, his four friends, Stine, and three children, are his growing perfect future state of we. And by purging the world of Marina and Richard, we are that much closer to sloughing off the primordial in us all.

—- stopping there, unless you are a Patreon member of course and if you are, just keep reading the next six theories to possibly explain Borgman —

[ppp_patron_only level=”1″]

Gah! So glad we got rid of those guys! Finally! hahahah. OK, let’s continue shall we? And some of these were actually my first, and clearest ideas of where this movie was going all throughout my first watching of the film! So sad the rest couldn’t see these too. Ah, well.

Theory #4 – Garden of Eden

Could it be that Borgman is just a modern day version of the Biblical Garden of Eden? But one wherein Eve partners up with the snake and kills Adam. Oh, and then is killed herself as a result of her sin? It’s not as far off as you would think. I mean, God was very clear to Adam and Eve, the knowledge of Good and Evil will ultimately end up killing you. And it did.

Theory #5 – Racist Rot

Back up to theory number one, we talked about white privilege. This theory is similar, but instead of focusing on “White Privilege,” instead we are focusing on the inverse…the racist rot inside of the world of white privilege. I can’t emphasize Richard’s booting the black gardener enough. It tells us where his heart is throughout the entirety of this film. Worse, it justifies his death as a judgement for his despising others solely based on their skin color. Yes, this is the only racism specific detail in the film (there were examples of other isms going on in this movie) but it is plenty for me to happily watch Richard get poisoned and die a painful death on his bedroom floor. If the entire movie was just one big retribution for his being racist, I would totally be cool with that.

Theory #6 – Spiritual War – Camael

Okay. This one is a favorite for me. Borgman goes by a couple of names in the movie – but his main nomme de guerre was Camiel. And if you weren’t aware, Camael happens to be the name of a extra-Biblical angel that was supposed to be the Archangel of strength, courage, and war. Apparently he’s also known as one of the ten Kabbalah angels assigned to the Sephira Gevurah? And his name might also be included in the Corpus Areopagiticum as one of the seven main Archangels along with Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and the other bigs found in the Bible. Myth is that he was the leader of the forces that expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. (Tie in with theory #5 much?)

So Camiel is an angel that expelled Adam and Eve. No, that isn’t a coincidence. But is it the single explanation for this movie? Seems too narrow… but still informative.

Theory #7 – Organ Traffickers

All of these metaphysical, spiritual, philosophical answers for this movie are starting to get on my nerves!!! Aren’t there other more physical/concrete answers to explain what is going on here? Well, what if Camiel is harvesting organs? Maybe he’s trafficking in the various body parts that he’s cutting out?

If so, why didn’t he carve out Richard and Marina’s xyz’s?? Hrmm. Maybe they were tainted? They only wanted the holy bits? Yeah, that is definitely a flaw with this fairly myopic theory.

Theory #8 – A Vampiric/Demon View

Could Camiel and his friends just be Vampires? They live underground after all? Well, they aren’t effected by sunlight. So, no. That doesn’t make sense. But what if they aren’t angels after all, but rather physical manifestations of demons? And these human demon carriers are hell-bent on reeking as much havoc as physically possible. This would sort of then be the inverse of Theory #6 – wherein they might be angels exacting revenge on evil, or kicking Richard and Marina from the Garden? I’ve never heard of angels that promote the idea of outright murder. Sure, vengeance, or slaying evil. But murder? Seems a little wonky to me. But demons? They could easily be demons – or worse – Satan, looking for whom he might devour.

Now, what about those slices on everyone’s backs? And this detail is courteous of the ever brilliant CY (THiNC. editor extraordinare). Her theory was that this slice represents the scar from the removal of angel’s wings. This then connects back to this Demonic theory that these are hell spawn who are intent on dismantling the earth’s angels and overcoming light with dark. This definitely spins the story to a much darker explanation. Maybe the darkest of them all. Hrmmm. I don’t know.

Theory #9 – Marina the Psycho Killer

Of all the 6 Patreon theories, this one is by far my favorite. We talked about up at #1 that it could be that Marina is just insane, right? But what if it’s actually worse than that? What if she’s not only insane, but she’s the one murdering everyone. She alone sees Camiel. And only she is the one that murders Richard. It’d be easy enough could get the poison herself. Better yet, she’s the one to blow-dart the gardener and ditch his body in the pond nearby. Could it be that she is the one that is actively working to kill everyone in the family. The only flaw to this theory is where do the kids go at the end? Run for help? Yeah… that works. That’s a pretty decent theory.

After thinking about all nine of these theories, I actually don’t think I have a favorite. Which is interesting in that it is my favorite that I easily came up with nine theories! So there you have it – 9 Crazy Theories to Explain the Movie Borgman. What a wild ride that was. Phew.

Edited by: CY