If you’re a fan of the original super dark fairy tales, you’re probably going to love Border. But be warned, it contains some incredibly disturbing content that I wasn’t prepared for. This film is not an easy watch, and I found myself thinking about it for a long time afterwards. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just isn’t for the faint of heart.
The film follows Tina (Eva Melander), a woman who works for the Swedish Border Control. She has a unique talent to sniff out contraband, so she’s an asset to the rest of the team. This ability confuses many around her, and this becomes a central part of Tina’s self-discovery later on in the film. Alongside her ability, Tina suffers from facial deformities which makes her an outcast in society.
Tina’s life changes when she meets a man named Vore (Eero Milonoff), who looks just like her. At first, she suspects him of something, but following an inspection, lets him pass through. The two of them have frequent encounters throughout the film, with Vore helping Tina to understand who she is. As she’s embarking on this journey, Tina is assigned to a child pornography case, with the authorities believing her ability can help them find the perpetrator.
Border is dark both in its narrative and its visuals, as you seldom see the sunlight throughout the entire film. It feels gritty, dirty and bleak, reflecting this incredibly harrowing case that Tina has to try and solve. Even her own home is depressing; living in a tiny cabin-like home with a man named Roland who trains dogs. Tina’s relationship with Roland is confusing to the audience, and she barely spends any time at home, opting to take walks outside instead. She is an incredibly lonely, isolated character until Vore comes along.
The film’s visuals really stood out to me, I loved the ethereal fantasy elements even when bad things are happening. Since Tina spends a lot of her time outdoors, her encounters with wildlife and nature are beautifully shot. These moments seem to be the only ones that bring Tina real joy, and the cinematography reflects this. The film’s bleakness can often feel too much at times, but it’s entirely appropriate given the story. Despite Tina’s eventual self-discovery, this is not a happy film.
Tina and Vore’s animalistic behaviour may be uncomfortable for some audiences, and it was for me too. The film relies on long, purely diegetic scenes that bring us closer to the action than we may have liked. Their relationship is raw, functional and sometimes aggressive, often making it difficult to like the characters. Despite this, I still liked Tina as a character and wanted her to find happiness.
Border is just under two hours in length, but feels much longer due to Abbasi’s use of lingering shots. I did find myself feeling a little frustrated with this at times, but the beauty of the cinematography made up for it. The story is as twisted as it is captivating, and by the end of the film you’re left in a stunned silence trying to process what you just saw. It’s the kind of film that leaves you feeling exhausted afterwards.
This happened to be my first real exploration of Nordic cinema, and I’m certainly interested to see what other films are out there. Border is a unique and harrowing story that points fun at Nordic relations, and is certainly worth the watch. Having said that, I’m not sure I could go through it again.
Directed by: Ali Abassi
Cast: Eva Melander, Eero Milonoff, Jörgen Thorsson, Sten Ljunggren