Border (2018) **** LFF 2018
Dir : Ali Abbasi | Fantasy Drama | Sweden | 104’
BORDER is one of those bracingly original films. Melding fantasy and folklore while teetering on the edge of Gothic horror it manages to be cleverly convincing and unbelievably weird at the same time. Fraught with undercurrents of sexual identity and self-realisation this gruesome rites of passage fable is another fabulous story with enduring appeal for the arthouse crowd and diehard fans of low key horror. Based on a short story by Let the Right One In creator John Ajvide Lindqvist it is Ali Abbasi’s follow up to Shelley and his first with writing partner Isabella Ekloff.
Tina (Melander) has always been an outsider because she suffers from a neanderthal physical appearance of flaring nostrils and a facial gurning movement that mark her out to have the heightened sensory perception of an animal. She feels a particular affinity to the wildlife near her comfortable cabin in the heavily forested woods between Finland and Sweden, and can sense when deer or moose are about to cross the country road. As a customs officer, she has a keen awareness for criminality but she feels diminished by her otherness and lonely: her live-boyfriend Roland (Jorgen Thorssen) is more interested in his pack of dobermans.
One day she spots an unusual traveller going through custom who looks like her male double and Tina feels a palpable attraction to Vore (Eero Milonoff) who seems to be an entomologist, from the contents of his luggage, though on further examination this is not all he appears to be. Has Tina found love for the first time, or just somebody from her own tribe? There’s a tone of optimism on the romantic front, and also workwise as Tina’s talents see her become the key investigator in the hunt for a local paedophile.
Abbasi masterfully manages the subtle strands of his storyline while keeping the tension taut and a dark humour bubbling under the surface. Melander’s Tina is gentle and almost submissive character who keeps her tale between her legs, and we feel for her even when her confidence make her more assertive after meeting Vore, particularly towards her elderly father who has clearly duped her since childhood, and her useless boyfriend. But the denouement of is quite unexpected in this rare curio that keeps you guessing all the way to the end. MT