Border is a Swedish fantasy directed by Ali Abbasi which traces the story of a Neanderthal looking Swedish customs official named Tina and played by Eva Melander. Her elevated senses allow her to detect low level smuggling at a small ferry port. As the plot unfolds she meets a kindred spirit and assists the police in breaking a child pornography ring.
I’ve seen this film before and thought I’d remembered the plot but was pleasantly surprised to be surprised. The plot is so inventive and the subject so strange I’d remembered the spiritual part of the story without recalling the actual plot. It would reveal too much to say any more but various threads interweave in surprising ways leaving us drawing analogies with Western treatment of indigenous people on the other side of the world.
It occurred to me early on that if this story had been told by Hollywood then the main characters may have been contrived t look strange but they would not feel strange. The characters in Border feelt stramge. Hollywood would have made them powerful and sexy but Eva Melander’s portrayal of Tina begins as unassuming and timid but discovers her power in a fantastic scene with a TV set. In fact the characters of both her and her kindred spirit were awkward yet compelling.
Much of the shooting is hand held and this lends it both a documentary feel and an intimacy which works extremely well when characters become angry. Though prosthetic were used they were comparatively restrained and it was the acting and camera which brought believability to the scenes. The story dips into Scandinavian folk lore and so probably has far more resonance with Swedes
The whole feel of the film was very Scandinavian. Forests, lakes, rain and animals contributed to render Tina’s character as in touch with the Earth though her day to day life was relatively mundane.
The screenplay is economic, leaving us to speculate. Was Roland on the phone to another girl friend? We’re not told but we see Tina’s reaction. A short scene has a colleague suggest a holiday, and this is later reinforced by a post card. Will Tina take the next step and go in search of her heritage?
At the end, she appears to follow her own sentiments and express her own identity when she claims she can see no point in evil and yet we are left wondering if this is instincts or upbringing which is perhaps, the point of the film.