‘Taglined with the obscure ‘alternative date movie’, BORDER from director Ali Abbasi and based on a story from John Ajvide Lindqvist (writer of Let the Right One In), is far more than a simple tagline. Being a modernist fairytale, by way of an allegory and meeting head on with political commentary. Academy Award nominated for its makeup, winner of Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2018 and now brought to the UK shores by MUBI both on demand and on this Blu Ray.
Tina (Eva Melander) is a customs agent working on the Swedish boat authority border. She is different from her colleagues. She seems to work on instinct. Literally smelling out human emotions, from those smuggling booze for their teenage parties, to suited men bringing child porn into the country. Her private life is dire. She lives with a man who is less than interested and feels like an outsider in her own skin. A handy talent and an empty home life are things hard to change but when she meets a mysterious male traveller, whose scent confounds her, she has to recalibrate. Who is he and what can he reveal to her about herself?
BORDER is a challenging film for many reasons. Yes the take away for many is that sometimes BORDER pushes us to the edge. Bodies are organic and deformed things. Limbs slip out. Organs ooze and leak. Moments Cronenberg would be proud of. For me it becomes more pertinent when it dilutes themes of migration and immigration into an abstract fantasy. One that mediates the self and belonging within a cultural body. This is done well enough. Then what it does with real vigour (alongside some other films from this decade like EVOLUTION and THE UNTAMED) is ask probing questions about audience comfort. How comfortable are those watching with what they are seeing? We are forced to ask ourselves what is it we would do? Should others be forced to assimilate? How do we live in a world with those on the fringes? Eva Melander fragile and tender performance illustrates how these questions are allowed to play out, with points raised and debated. She is the rock that the film foundations are set on. Give her an Oscar just for captaining it through, without losing the audience or the thematic discourse.