Iranian director Ali Abbasi delivers an intense tale about the treatment of outsiders and the quest for self-acceptance that moves and perplexes. Border is the director’s second feature work, who wrote the film alongside Isabella Eklof and John Ajvide Linqvist. The film’s screening at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival earned it the Un Certain Regard award and it has been selected as the Swedish entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the upcoming Academy Awards.
Adapted from a short story that screenwriter Linqvist previously published, Border follows Tina (Eva Melander), a Swedish Border Agent with an odd facial structure and the strange ability to smell the guilt and shame of others. One day at work, where she routinely uses her secret power to detect contraband, she discovers an unclaimed memory card with child pornography on it. Following this ghastly discovery, she is asked by her boss to join the investigation for the owner of the memory card. The next day, however, a man with a similar facial construction as Tina named Vore (Eero Milonoff) walks in with a bag full of maggots.
That’s only the first of bizarre turns that Border takes. The film’s complete unpredictability is a refreshing change of pace that audiences will welcome. However, viewers will definitely find themselves leaving the theater bewildered and wondering what it is they just saw. The sense of confusion is amplified by Border’s wonderful composition and beautiful cinematography. Nadim Carlsen’s photography work lends itself to the fantasy tale, offering surreal and emotional images to ground the at times befuddling narrative. Also guiding the film is Melander and Milonoff, who play the relationship between their characters with a touching tenderness that makes their scenes delightful to watch. Their relationship itself offers a nuanced exploration of the fluidity of gender and sexuality that is rarely seen in fantasy films.
Border is truly a film worthy of seeing and will see more attention in the coming months as it will no doubt be a strong competitor on the indie award circuit. For those in South Florida, Border is now playing at the Miami Beach Cinematheque.
Jose Ramirez is an English major minoring in Psychology and working towards a Film Studies Certificate.