The Scandinavian fairy tale has been haunting us for a few months now BORDER about all kinds of film festivals. Ali Abbasi’s new film is now being released regularly in USA cinemas, where experiencing this story becomes a very special borderline experience. We reveal more about this in our review.
The Plot Summary
The border official Tina is a remarkable presence. Her strangely swollen face, her piercing gaze and her physical strength give the young woman something animalistic. Tina also has a special ability: she can sense other people’s fear, shame and anger. The Swedish border guards successfully use their talent to track down criminals. Nevertheless, Tina feels strangely alien among her fellow human beings and lives alone and close to nature as an outsider in the woods. But then she meets Vore, who looks strikingly similar to her due to a chromosomal error and where her talent reaches its limits. Tina suspects that Vore has something to hide. And yet, uninhibited, wild and surprisingly free, Vore is incredibly attractive to her. Tina senses a familiarity with him that was previously foreign to her. As the two get closer, Vore reveals her mystical origins. But this knowledge not only brings new freedoms, but also uncomfortable challenges that Tina has to face.
Movie explanation of the ending
The Scandinavian countries are not only known for their melancholic crime novels and thrillers, for a high level of education and beautiful people, but also for all sorts of sagas and legends. The Iranian-born director Ali Abbasi deals with one of these (“Shelley”) in his new film “Border”, even if as a viewer you don’t really notice anything about it for a long time. Abbasi, who together with two co-authors also wrote the screenplay based on a short story by John Ajvide Lindqvist, doesn’t even consciously lead the viewer by the nose. He just leaves it open for a long time about who or what he is actually watching. This is why it is impossible to classify “Border” as a specific genre. The film is a love story, drama, crime thriller and (horror) fairytale all in one and for a long time it seems to break down into so many individual storylines that a coherent combination of them sometimes seems impossible. But this shows what an excellent director Ali Abbasi is. With great dexterity, he brilliantly reconciles the excesses of the story until, at the end, every piece of the puzzle is in its place. And yet we still have an extraordinary viewing experience that gives us some images that we have never seen before and that we will not soon forget.
The border officer Tina (Eva Melander) has an outstanding talent: she can smell emotions.
Broken down to the essentials, “Border” is about Tina, the main actress Eva Melander (“The Hypnotist”) embodied with a remarkable courage to be ugly. But it’s not just this year’s Oscar-nominated make-up, which comes from both the pretty Swede and her co-star Eero Milonoff (“The happiest day in the life of Olli Mäki”) creates two disfigured creatures, which removes the two characters indefinably from reality. Rather, the attitude of the two creatures, which lies somewhere between humans, animals and monsters, sniff each other like dogs, try to appear halfway humane in public and at no point allow themselves to be assessed by their contradictory behavior, keeps the viewer in the dark for a long time about what is actually being presented to him. At times “Border” seems like a dramatic display of a tortured soul; Despite her special gift of being able to smell human emotions, Tina seems constantly absent. Seems lonely even though she lives with her partner. And she only feels really comfortable when she goes into the forest every now and then to communicate with the animals there. Whether the equally ugly Vore is a friend or an enemy remains to be seen for a long time. On some level, however, he seems to be at least something like a fellow sufferer. This friendship definitely has an extraordinary fascination.
In his production, Ali Abbasi repeatedly emphasizes the physicality between his two main characters and, over the course of 110 minutes, presents his audience with a sex scene that is so intimate, so direct and simply different that it will not be forgotten in a hurry. At its core, “Border” is, above all, a subtle examination of emotions, the high diversity of which is repeatedly expressed on the narrative level in which Tina sniffs people at the border control. In one scene she even catches a man trying to bring child pornography across the border. What at first glance only seems like an illustration of Tina’s abilities later finds its place – like everything else – in this apparent narrative confusion. This also applies to Tina’s dysfunctional relationship with her boyfriend and a few other script frays, the severity of which the makers sometimes seem to stress about, only to eliminate all these assumptions in the last third when Abbasi brings all the narrative threads together in a coherent and comprehensible way.
Vore (Eero Milonoff) knows that Tina has a special gift.
Due to the sheer number of sources of conflict and the confident handling of them, “Border” gains driving momentum despite its lengthy running time. In every scene, something relevant to the story seems to happen that provides information about the further course of the story, but even more so about the characters about whom we know nothing at all at the beginning of the film. It’s amazing how little information about the status quo of the two main characters is enough to create fascination for them right from the start. At the same time, “Border” has such a melancholic, pessimistic tone that it almost single-handedly slows down the progression of the story. The images from cameraman Nadim Carlsen (“What will people say?”) delight in the rich colors of nature; Carlsen works with long tracking shots and slow pans, as if he wanted to ask us to really look closely at every moment. Christoffer Berg (“Rings”) and Martin Dirkov (“Holiday”) provide a threatening, wavering soundscape that announces far in advance the dimensions that will arise in front of you if you get involved in this unusual construct of genres and stories. This won’t be for everyone. Again and again, Ali Abbasi plays with the viewer’s expectations or, as a result, cleverly pulls the rug out from under him. But you won’t find a film comparable to “Border” at first. That alone should be worth going to the cinema.
Conclusion: Ali Abbasi’s “Border” is a confusing mix of melancholic outsider and love story, crime novel and mystery thriller, in which it remains unclear until the end how all the different storylines are actually connected to each other. There’s nothing more you should know about the film, which wasn’t nominated for “Best Make-Up” at this year’s Oscars for nothing.
“Border” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from April 11th.