I am trying to refrain myself from using the word ‘dystopian’ to describe Ali Abbasi’s leftfield indie Border, but no other word is more befitting to explain a world carbon copy to ours with the slightest difference being the existence of humanoid looking trolls. Abbasi’s debut offers us an extraordinary fairy tale inspired by Swedish folklore about a woman Tina (Eva Melander), ostracised by society for her unusual looks only to eventually unearth inhuman truths about herself, altering her life forever.
Where Tina suffers in her personal life, she excels at her job, possessing a supernatural acute sense of smell, makes her the ideal customs officer in a remote Swedish port. It is there where we first meet Tina, as she sniffs out anything from illegal smuggling to paedophile rings, she is able to sniff out people’s fear from miles off. It’s not until the presence of Vore (Eero Milonoff), a suspicious looking man with strikingly similar features passes through customs one day, unable to identify what he is hiding whilst finding herself strangely attracted to him. Over the course Tina and Vore meet again and a relationship slowly develops where dormant primeval urges are thrust to the surface. Once Vore discloses his true identity, he consequently uncovers Tina’s own truth; her entire existence has been a lie and she now has to choose to either keep living the lie or embracing Vore's terrifying revelations.
Border rests solely on Melander’s shoulders; Tina’s journey of self-realisation and empowerment. She is simply mesmerizing to watch, I couldn’t stop examining her bestial facial features but also moved by her endearing and down-trodden demeanour as she is relegated to a life on the fringes. Melander’s portrayal is outstanding, showcasing her exceptional thespian talents as she infuses Tina with a sensitivity and a complete mutli-demensional personality under layers and layers of restrictive facial prosthetics.
Abassi opts for subtly for the most part, infusing a more human-esque depiction of this folklore tale instead of a more sci-fi fantasy interpretatio and in doing so, Tina’s struggle is even more affecting. It’s from the moment that Vore appears, that the film shift genres and gears, elevating it from a twisted psychodrama into something quite haunting, unique but remains hyperrealistic. And that gender bending sex scene between her and Vore, is perhaps a first. CGI perfected, their encounter takes on primitively carnal proportions, rudely awakening quiescent organs within Tina as well igniting dominant sexual impulses she never knew she had.
Based on a short story by Ajvide Lindqvist, the author of romantic horror Let the Right One In, made into a film in 2008. Border is a unique offering, raucous, loaded with much symbolism whether it’s the treatment of refugees, immigrant or any type outsiders, or perhaps a story about self-acceptance, the silencing of external voices and listening and unleashing the beast within. You almost envy Tina, as the chastising shackles start to break, gradually liberating herself from the confines of the human experience and the oppression from the confines of society.
Border is out now.Words by Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_.
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