Border

 

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Be prepared for surprises from a film that develops in unpredictable ways.

 
Border

  

The tale told in Border is so bizarre that it can safely be said that you have seen no other film like it. In point of fact, despite the material being so strange that it keeps us in constant suspense as to where the narrative will go next, this is a story that could easily have lost its way and ended up feeling plain silly. That it works so well in practice is due to the talent on board - to the direction by Ali Abbasi making his second feature, to the stunning lead performance by Eva Melander and to the quality of the screenplay.

 

Border is a Swedish film, one that opens in the customs building at a port where we meet the central character, Eva Melander's Tina. The setting might suggest that the title of the film should be interpreted geographically, but other possibilities soon emerge. With a face that is seen as ugly while also conveying a certain androgyny, Tina appears to be a victim of a chromosome flaw that has also given her strange powers enabling her literally to smell out those who are cheating at the customs. When her nose is sensing such people, her face takes on an animalistic look and later it appears that some kind of link draws her to animals. Consequently, we start to wonder if the border is that between the human and the animal. Furthermore, when she meets a stranger (Eero Milonoff) who shares some of her characteristics and who roams around like the Flying Dutchman, a passion ignites between them leading to a sexual ecstasy that arguably suggests some crossing of another border, this time in the sphere of sexuality.

 

If ultimately Border can be clarified as a kind of horror film, its individuality is largely that of John Ajvide Lindqvist best known to us as the author who adapted his own novel for the 2008 film Let the Right One In. Here he is a co-writer involved in building up his own short story Gräns and Border has clear affinities with its predecessor. Both films wisely take the time to involve us with the characters so that we feel for them and in Border that leads to a disturbing ride for the viewer who is put on the spot: confronted by two leading figures who are both ugly and in some way different we feel that it would be wrong to be judgmental and yet what develops seems likely to make sympathy inappropriate. However, while the plotting may not make everything crystal clear, the story cunningly resolves this emotional impasse. The lead role may well call for detailed prosthetics but Eva Melander's portrayal gets well under the skin of the part and provides a very firm centre indeed. Meanwhile, Abbasi directs like a master being spot on with the pacing and especially adroit in his use of the soundtrack, be it natural sounds, subdued music or the way in which the score is given its head at fraught moments. Too strange I would guess to appeal to everybody, Border is handled with such precision that if you go with it you cannot fail to be impressed.

 

Original title: Gräns.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Eva Melander, Eero Milonoff, Viktor Åkarblom, Jörgen Thorsson, Ann Petrén, Sten Ljunggren, Kjell Wilhelmsen, Rakel Wärmländer, Andreas Kundler, Matti Boustedt, Tomas Åhmnstrand, Josefin Neldén.

 

Dir Ali Abassi, Pro Nina Bisgaard, Piodor Gustafsson and Petra Jansson, Screenplay Ali Abassi, Isabella Eklöf and John Ajvide Lindqvist, from Lindqvist's short story Gräns, Ph Nadim Carlsen, Pro Des Frida Hoas, Ed Olivia Neergaard-Holm and Anders Skov, Music Christoffer Berg and Martin Dukov, Costumes Elsa Fischer.

 

Meta Film Stockholm/Spark Film & TV/Kärnfilm/Film i Väst/Sveriges Television-MUBI.
110 mins. Sweden/Denmark. 2018. Rel: 8 March 2019. Cert. 15.