Call it the id unleashed or simply evil incarnate, but either way, the force that descends upon Borgman’s affluent Richard and Marina in their secluded, spacious slab of a house is definitely implacable. Once the strange tramp of the title (Rasputin-ish Jan Bijvoet) has insinuated himself into the household by provoking a beating from Richard (Jeroen Perceval), director Alex van Warmerdam, a deadpan satirist, sets a course that moves past Boudu and Buñuel into a realm of black comedy so purposefully dark it’s disorienting.
Borgman quickly mesmerizes homemaker Marina (Hadewych Minis), an artist with three children by her quick-tempered partner; meanwhile, his cohorts, demons in suits, assist in committing murders that isolate the household. He then gets himself hired as a gardener for the grounds and slowly takes control. Though it’s flecked with deadpan humor, the sketchy psychologization of the deterioriating Marina and her family is overshadowed by the film’s ruthless narrative drive and violence.
This is some macabre enchantment, but to what end? Van Warmerdam has built a visually clean, efficient, modern version of a fairy tale of the sort that blurs together the pagan and Christian. But he does so without really opening up the metaphysics (or the pretenses) of, say, a Carlos Reygadas trip. At the very least, though, the film confirms the veteran Dutch filmmaker as an under-sung, if perhaps old-fashioned, practitioner of that trusty art-house staple, the twisted domestic allegory.