Based on the short story of the same name, Border (dir. Ali Abbasi) tells the story of Tina, a customs agent at the Swedish border agency who possesses the unusual ability to sniff out prohibited items – as well as emotions such as guilt and shame. She is an asset to her employer (and later recruited to help with a high profile child pornography case), but is ostracised in every other part of her life due to her unusual appearance and taken advantage of by her slacker boyfriend. On the job she meets Vore, who appears and acts like her in ways she’s never experienced before and so begins Tina’s journey of self actualisation.
Tina is pulled to Vore in a way befitting any grand romance. It’s both breathtaking and unsettling. Through Vore, the audience is presented with a very modern, progressive idea of gender and our relationship with our bodies that is unfortunately later rescinded into something all together more comical. A passionate but less than the conventionally attractive sex scene audiences are used to is what many will remember from this. It’s an uncomfortable watch but most real life sex isn’t lit and choreographed. Sex is messy.
But this is very much Tina’s story, and her journey to self confidence and acceptance is an easy one to get behind. Her kindness and truly good human nature is tested as the world she knew falls dramatically apart and a new one opens up to her.
Eva Melander’s stunning central performance permeates the heavy fairytale-like Academy Award nominated prosthetics (which cannot be said for more recent Hollywood attempts) and her tender presence helps to the ground the film in her humanity as she is faced with painful and confusing truths. The harsh beauty of the Swedish landscape plays a key role captured beautifully by Nadim Carlsen and while you might skip rolling around on a mossy bank, you’d be tempted by a swim in a lake during a downpour.
Border is an impeccably well-made film. Well written, a clear directorial vision with strong performances but the feeling of unease you come away with is so overwhelming, it’s hard to fully process what you just witnessed.
While Border ends up in a more otherworldly place than when it started, the age old themes of identity, family and nature vs nurture remain. Like many of us, all Tina really wants to know is ‘Who Am I?’