A customs officer who can smell fear develops an unusual attraction to a strange traveler while aiding a police investigation which will call into question her entire existence.
‘Border’ is a genre defying film from Sweden that claimed the ‘Un Certain Regard’ prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, and it’s one of the oddest, yet most captivating films I’ve seen so far this year. The film centres on Tina, a Swedish customs officer who has an unusual ability to smell fear and guilt, which enables her to successfully detect contraband on people passing through the ferry terminal where she works. She suffers from facial deformities but otherwise lives a life of relative contentment, visiting her ailing father in a nursing home and living in a secluded house in the woods with Roland, a companion if not a lover. One day at her work a man with similar deformities passes through her customs office and she forms a connection with him after an awkward initial encounter. His name is Vore and his introduction drives the majority of the plot forward.
This is an incredibly strange film that covers a variety of themes, effortlessly moving between romance, Scandi noir and the supernatural, whilst managing to retain a grounded feel at the same time. Several plots are introduced towards the beginning before converging towards the end in surprising, yet effective ways, and I’m impressed that director Ali Abbasi managed to tell a deeply human tale wrapped up in amongst all these spinning plates. The effects work is particularly impressive in creating Tina and Vore’s distinct look, but it’s the performances underneath that really sell it, particularly from Eva Melander as Tina who creates a sad, relatable portrait of a woman caught between two paths.
I really liked ‘Border’ and found it to be an engaging, subversive piece of work from Ali Abbasi, marking him out as a talent to watch. It’s a film best viewing with as little knowledge of the plot as possible, but if you get the chance to see it, I do recommend seeking it out.
Directed By: Ali Abbasi
Starring: Eva Melander, Eero Milonoff, Sten Ljunggren, Jorgen Thorsson, Viktor Akerblom, Rakel Warmlander and Ann Petren