Certainly one of the stranger films of the year, and also one of the better, Alex van Warmerdam revises the home intrusion film not unlike Teorema and in a very different way than The Guest, also from this year.
Camiel Borgman (Jan Bijvoet) is possibly a god or devil or angel or…just a really strange vagrant. After being unceremoniously and nearly-violently “evicted” from his makeshift underground hut in an unnamed town (in what acts as a sort of prologue) he takes up with husband and wife Richard (Jeroen Perceval) and Marina (Hadewych Minis), gradually enrapturing and seducing both, while, along with a slew of oddball helpers slowly taking the family in unexpected directions.
Borgman feels a bit like Dogtooth from recent years. Both have some kind of allegorical bent, take place almost entirely in one upper-class location, and depict methodical violence that verges on the humorous.
At times, Borgman is just absurd, and one gets the feeling that van Warmerdam (who also plays one of the titular characters henchmen in a rather genteel, grandfatherly sort of way) really just likes seeing this nice, traditional family unit thrown into upset. Their house, though built like a fortress-
-is also massive and opulent (just look at that wallpaper!):
They’ve got the stereotypical three kids (two girls and a boy) including this angelic blonde:
And there doesn’t seem to be much moralizing here. Borgman and company don’t ask for anything, don’t present contrasting religious views. They even use pretty mundane means of murder (like this blowgun):
Though they do seem to send their victims to a cement hell, face-straight-down:
There are “hints” throughout the film, but all feel obtuse. Where did Borgman and co. come from (I’m guessing they similarly influenced another family, were found out, went into hiding, and then were discovered again…so this is repetitious)? Are they building an army of sorts? They do leave with the children and nanny, leaving mother and father dead behind. Are we to assume that Borgman’s other “helpers” also came from past “conquests”? Why take children and nanny? These certainly aren’t protectors of the innocent – we see them take plenty of innocent life throughout. Is it because they’re the least worldly; the least likely to protest?
There are all of those scars on their backs, scars which the children also eventually obtain:
Much of Borgman just feels eerily nightmarish. Perhaps it’s no mistake then that van Warmerdam seems to very consciously mimic the famous painting, The Nightmare:
If anything, Borgman seems to be about chaos and suggestion. How people are easily manipulated even without the aid of much supernatural ability.
Having grown up with the Pink Panther movies I certainly count myself both a Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers fan. I’ve meant to watch The Party for some time, and the first hour doesn’t disappoint.
Sellers plays Hrundi. An Indian (is he in India-face?) accidentally invited to a swanky Hollywood party who then proceeds to bumble and destroy many things in his path.
The film feels quieter than many others that I know of Sellers. Many times the soundtrack is simply the murmur of the party and other traipsings. Instead, we watch Hrundi clumsily maneuver his way about, often hilariously so. I really like that method of quiet gags – it feels like Tati or Chaplin.
The other thing that I quite like about The Party, aside from the drunken waiter who very nearly steals the show (I love that second still below – it not only shows the punchline of the waiter avoiding the stepping stones to just tramp across the indoor pool, but also starts to show the massive interior space)-
-is how complex it must have been to shoot. There are a lot of people to keep track of. It’s one space, but the space is rather elaborate. And there’s a pretty big, anarchic build-up. It could not have been an easy film to block out.
There are, of course, so great Sellers moments. The man had such impeccable timing. There’s his interaction with Wyoming Bill Kelso (Danny Miller), which includes a lot of close-talking and a pretty great description of billiards:
An interaction with then-modern technology (Hrundi isn’t a Tati-like technophobe, but it doesn’t agree with him) that projects Hrundi’s unwitting voice throughout the party surround-sound-style:
And the now classic “Birdy num num” interaction. I love this moment below because it’s got some of that Sellers uncomfortableness, when he’s obviously messing up but just keeps going:
The last 20 minutes or so of the film climax in a way that you’d maybe expect this type of film to go. Things get out of hand. The house turns into a massive bubble party. The hosts’ daughter brings home an elephant, etc, etc. All of that is well and good, but oddly enough, once Hrundi starts becoming more well-liked and stops messing up so much, The Party loses steam. He becomes far less interesting.
I get it: he’s actually a good guy (surrounded, also, by a lot of shallow people), but the film goes from pretty damn funny, to something closer to the manic celebration of a Beatles film. It just gets old.
There are still some great comedic moments amidst the chaos, like these two drunks finding one-another amidst the mess:
Still, the sheer technical capability of the film, coupled with Sellers’ unwieldy Hrundi makes the film worthwhile.