I’ll go ahead and admit this from the outset, having watched Gräns (Border) yesterday, it is way too early for me to be writing about it. So take the following under advisement.
The movie starts off in a fairly straightforward way, all be it with a good dose of Swedish strange about it. Tina (Eva Melander under some pretty brutal prosthetic) works at the local port as a border guard with a nose for trouble. Literally. She can smell when something isn’t right. Anyone disembarking with something suspicious on their person is pulled to one side on a wiggle of her nose. Only her unconventional appearance gives any clue as to how she manages to sense three of four litres of illicit liquor in somebody’s bag. At the end of the day she gets into her ageing Rover car and heads back to her home in the woods which she shares, pretty much on a platonic basis with Roland. Roland’s three dogs seem to have an excessive reaction to Tina but otherwise they all seem to live out a relatively humdrum existence.
In the space of a couple of days all this changes though. At work, Tina unearths a memory card carried by a well dressed gentleman which happens to contain paedophilia. This leads to the police asking her to assist with their investigations and reveals a seedy underworld in the local town. Tina also meets Vore, who she pulls aside at the port but is then unable to identify any contraband in his belongings. Vore’s facial features bear an uncanny resemblance to Tina’s and when he is strip searched by one of Tina’s colleagues, all is not as it seems.
To give any more plot away would spoil the experience of watching Border, and it is definitely an experience, but suffice to say that if you thought you knew where the movie was heading, you will definitely be proved wrong. Both Tina and Vore are incredible creations and Melander and Eero Milonoff (as Vore) are both impressive. The raw animalistic physicality of the characters is translated perfectly by the actors, they are genuinely both a force of nature in all possible senses. Tina’s transformation on meeting another of her ‘kind’ is something to behold and there are a number of scenes that have to been seen to be believed.
In truth, I’m still trying to properly assess Border. What looks like a simple story of people at society’s fringe finding solace in each other is bent out of all proportion by the events that unfold and the clash between Tina’s assimilation and Vore’s exile status is brutal and utterly uncompromising. In his introduction, director Ali Abbasi urged the audience not to read too much into the movie and to think of it as a modern fairy tale. I think this is a pretty good strategy. If you are up for a movie that will challenge your expectations thoroughly, you’re in the right place here. I’m pretty sure I’ll still be over thinking this one at the end of the Festival…