Border: Movie Review

4rvldinypbcrvis9od_r7fiazbkBorder is a Swedish movie directed by Ali Abbasi and starring Eva Melander and Eero Milonoff. It’s now gaining some popularity possibly thanks to its Oscar nomination for the best makeup. I saw it at the cinema a few days ago and it has impacted me a lot, I enjoyed it, but I have no desire to see it again. Let me explain.

The film, based on a short story by Ajvide Lindqvist, follows Tina, a customs officer on the border with Norway, who’s very good at her job because she discovers smugglers and criminals thanks to her sense of smell. Yes, you’ve read it correctly: Tina is able to smell the fear of those who know that they’re doing something wrong. Also, she’s a woman with very peculiar physical characteristics, due, she says, to some chromosome abnormality. One day she stops for a check a man not too dissimilar from her, Vore, but she’s unable to find evidence of his being guilty of something. The two will begin to frequent each other and gradually a very upsetting truth will be revealed…

The no-spoiler part of my review ends here since it’s impossible to talk about this film without revealing the plot. I can tell you that the film deals with the life of people marginalized by our society, it deals with acceptance, revenge, and justice. Not only are these interesting themes, but the movie is made with great craftsmanship, and I recommend it to anyone. However, brace yourselves: it’s a heavy one, with the camera obsessively following the protagonists, stuck to their face all the time, and with a story which isn’t easy to digest.

So let’s make this inevitable (albeit limited) spoiler: Vore reveals to Tina that in reality she has no malformation. She’s simply a troll, just like him. They are part of a race that humans have almost exterminated and now most of them live as outcasts in human society, with at least one group in Finland living in the wilderness. Vore is part of that group, in fact. So why does he travel on the ferry controlled by Tina and her colleagues? Because he’s a criminal who kidnaps newborn human children to pass them to a network of human pedophiles to take revenge on what humans have done to the trolls years before.

Wow! The film turns decidedly into fantasy territory, and a very dark fantasy too (with roots in Scandinavian folklore), despite the appearance of a classic indie movie made for European film festivals. And does it work? Yes, it does: the story is interesting and well developed, the political subtext on racism is adequately treated, and above all the characters are well written and make choices that are anything but elementary. Will Tina accept her wild nature instead of continuing to live among humans with whom she doesn’t manage to have real relationships? And will she join the battle of Vore or will she remain faithful to her protective nature revealed by the work she has chosen to do in life? Is revenge for genocide through unspeakable misdeeds justified or not?

The film deals with these issues without fear and gives the audience its answers, and the ending is very intelligent and not at all trivial. Moreover, the technical realization is perfect, so much so that until the end of the movie I thought that the two protagonists were like that in real life! But I also found Border a very tough film to watch, and at the moment I don’t want to see it again. A bit like Breaking the waves by Lars Von Trier (1996), to name one: of course it’s a good movie and I’m glad I saw it, but seeing it once is enough! Ciao!

PS: I just wanted to add that the the sex scenes between the two trolls are really savage, literally so. And I think that she won’t go to Finland in the end!


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