By Tejah Wilson
Border is a Nordic love story that bridges the gap between reality and fantasy. It’s a beautifully unique, yet unusual film. The story centers on Tina (Eva Melander) who has been led to believe that her unusual appearance was due to a chromosome flaw. It isn’t until she meets Vore (Eero Milonoff) that she learns the truth. Tina is not actually human, she’s a troll.
A John Lindqvist Creation
This film was adapted from a short story written by Let The Right One In director, John Lindqvist. Lindqvist is known for working within the fantasy genre. He also incorporates many unexpected twists in his work. Ali Abbasi, the director of Border, described Lindqvist’s writing style saying “[Lindqvist] uses a lot of space and effort in describing [his character’s] inner conflict, and their feelings, and their emotions, and their thoughts.” Although his work is fantasy, there are always underlying conflicts and unsettling moments in his writing. Border is a perfect example of his unique way of storytelling.
TIna’s Fantastic Journey
Tina is a border officer with unique gifts that allow her to excel in the workplace. She has heightened senses and is able to smell people’s fear, shame, and guilt. One day, she meets Vore and senses that something about him isn’t right. However, she also feels strangely connected to him and they soon develop a romantic relationship. Tina has never felt more connected to someone before, and in meeting Vore she learns a lot about her true identity. She learns about the other side of the world inhabited by “people” who look and act just like her. Tina realizes that there’s something strange and confusing about Vore. It isn’t until the end of the film that she understands Vore’s true intentions.
Overlapping the Fantastic and Reality
Border isn’t your typical depiction of fantasy. Don’t expect fairy dust, rainbows, or unicorns to appear on the screen when watching it. Abbasi purposely took a more realistic approach to the cinematic language of the film. He chooses to focus on the concept of “nature vs nurture”. The beauty of nature is heavily highlighted in this film. The nature scenes are breathtaking and these scenes are, in their own way, an escape from reality.
Viewers observe early on the deep connection that Tina has with nature. When she’s not at work, she’s at home surrounded by a forest. She is able to bond with and truly appreciate the nature that she’s surrounded by. Tina blends in very well with society, to the point where she’s almost invisible. You wouldn’t necessarily think that she was anything other than human.
Viewing Border is an Experience
This story is nothing like anything I’ve seen. The experience of watching it was very different than other films I’ve watched. The way the filmmakers captured the beauty of Scandinavia had me in awe.
The storyline was intriguing as well. However, there were many times where I was a bit uncomfortable — but not in a negative way. It was beautiful to see Tina interact with Vore and as she discovers herself. But, it isn’t a secret that Tina does look different than her peers, and her mannerisms were sometimes a little disturbing. While watching certain scenes I glanced around the theater and noticed the reactions of the other movie goers. Many people were making faces or shifting in their seats so I wasn’t the only one who felt slightly uncomfortable. This isn’t a flaw in the film. The feelings we felt were intentional.
Border isn’t a fairytale about a picture perfect romance with flawless characters. As harsh as it may sound, Tina isn’t the dictionary definition of pretty. The intimate scenes between Tina and Vore weren’t pretty either. They are trolls, not humans and that was very evident between the aggressive actions and monstrous grunts the two shared.
These scenes made me question our societal definition of what is pretty and what romance looks like, especially in America. We’re all taught that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that beauty is within, and this film captures that. No one’s physical appearance should matter yet this isn’t always the reality. Tina’s appearance did not take away from her talent, her compassion or her capacity to love. That was beautiful to see and definitely something that made me think. I’m sure those who have seen the film thought about their perception of beauty as well.
Border, which is an Oscar contender for best-foreign language, is an unusual film but it was intriguing. Different is good, and Border is certainly different. The acting in this movie was nothing short of the best. It was a very fun film to watch. A lot of people will relate to this film in terms of beauty, romance, internal and external conflicts while also developing a more open understanding of other cultural and personal differences.
Border is available now in select theaters.