*** SPOILERS ***
When I first saw the trailer for director Ali Abbasi’s Swedish film Border, I was instantly intrigued. The film centers on Tina a customs border agent who has the strange appearance of that of an early male Homo sapiens. Tina seems to have a sort of sixth sense where she can suss out people’s fears, nervousness, or general bad feelings through smell. One such example is when she stops a man crossing the border and has him empty out the contents of his bag to find that he’s bringing over more than the maximum amount of liquor that’s legally permitted. Another time, she’s able to stop a man who is in possession of a child pornography file on his phone.
Her home life is as lonely as her work life, where although she has a boyfriend, he’s more of a roommate that pays all his attention to his dogs & the television. The dogs bark at her incessantly and she often retreats to the forest where she swims in a lake and wanders around the outdoors. It’s reveled that she has a strange connection to the critters of the wilderness which comes into play later in the film.
We are also introduced to Tina’s dad, who is at some type of assisted living facility and who might be suffering from the early stages of dementia.
After her busting of the child pornographer, she’s asked by the police how she was able to catch the man, in which she explains her sense of smell that offers the leads. She is then asked to assist in the investigation of this pornography ring which she does. This eventually leads her and the policeman man designated as her partner to the doorstep of an apartment where she can sense that bad things are happening.
Continued through her day job, she comes across a man that shares similarly distorted features to hers. Her sixth sense goes off again and the man, who we later learn is named Vore, is pulled into the backroom to investigate. It is to no avail since he has nothing on him but a harmless machine for bugs he collects. It is however revealed in a sort of cavity search that although Vore resembles a man, he has no penis, but rather a vagina.
Vore eventually sparks Tina’s interest and eventually she rents to him a living quarters just across the way from her, much to the disapproval of her boyfriend Tomas. With Vore and Tina’s connection getting stronger, they find themselves crossing paths in the forest, where Vore revels that Tina is a troll much like himself. Now as weird as that sounds I remembered I was watching a very unusual movie, but still one that was very engaging. Vore is able to help Tina by showing her their capabilities and somewhat special powers, like their connection to animals and their ability to growl at dogs to show dominance.
As the film progresses we are treated to one of the strangest love scenes in all of cinema as well as a shocking revelation by Vore as to what his true intentions are. Without spoiling too much, Border takes a dark turn that involves the child pornography ring, Vore, and some clear moral dilemmas that must be dealt with.
Eva Melander as Tina is absolutely spectacular. Even under the heavy makeup and prosthetics she gives a star making performance. Eero Milonoff as the complicated Vore also puts in a fine performance which compliments Melander’s beautifully.
At its core, what Border is really about is someone who is so physically different from the rest of society and how they try so hard to fit in to the resistant human race. Humans are often suspicious and fearful of the unknown or those who are markedly different, so they fight against educating themselves to the point of acceptance. Ultimately Tina has to make a hard decision about whether morally she should turn against others after being shunned all her life because of her innate differences. I was not at all familiar with director Abbasi’s other works so I have nothing to compare this film too. What I can say is that it is like nothing I’ve ever seen and is extremely competently shot. I definitely won’t forget it anytime soon and I couldn’t give it a higher recommendation. With all the films I see throughout the year, and see a lot, its refreshing to come across something as unique as Border, so do yourself a favour, take a daring walk on the wild side and embrace something a little different.
Film ’89 Verdict – 8/10
Border is on limited theatrical release across the US now.