Glasgow Film Festival: ‘Border’ (‘Gräns’)

❉ A singular piece of cinema from the writer of ‘Let The Right One In’.

“Fans of Scandi-dramas such as The Bridge may have seen Eva Melander before, but she is truly unrecognisable here. Her awkward shifting posture alongside the knowledge that she is barely tolerated by the society she has found herself in make her one of the more striking outsiders in genre cinema since the eternally young Eli from Let the Right One In. “

John Ajvide Lindquist made a seismic impact with his debut novel Let the Right One In and its equally successful film adaptation soon after. His tales of supernatural entities, be they vampires, zombies or sirens, shifting into the mundane realities of Swedish life have marked him out as a kind of European equivalent to Stephen King. The difference being a lower key style that places just as much importance on the normal day to day events and habits of his protagonists and antagonists.

Unlike King there have been no other adaptations of his work bar the American remake of Let the Right One In, Matt Reeve’s Let Me In, a film that succeeded in transplanting the story to an American setting much more than expected. Collaborating with director Ali Abbasi in adapting his short story Gräns, this marks the first time in over a decade that Lindquist’s work has graced the screen. Although the wait has been long the results are just as distinctive and go further in some respects than previously.

Tina, played by Eva Melander, is a customs agent with a literal sense for sniffing out guilty travellers at the Swedish border. This alongside her intimidating, Neanderthal looks mark her out as a solitary figure. That such a character with such a skill is treated as an everyday object of scorn, derision and pity sets Lindquist’s skill of the fantastic sitting comfortably beside the humdrum is one of Border’s most beguiling facets. Events soon take a turn however when Tina meets Vore, a traveller who has the same characteristics as herself. Their burgeoning relationship reveals aspects of Tina’s true self but also something more seismic that would rob viewers of the films many surprises that are waiting to be discovered.

Eero Milonoff as Vore with Eva Melander.

Even if I was to explain and describe some of these events and sights you might think that I was pulling your leg. One tender scene seems on the verge of animalistic, primal violence until a truly eye-opening reveal that is unlike anything I have ever seen onscreen before and I seriously doubt you have as well. This is more of a character study than plot driven drama but thanks to maintained balancing act of two different realities and genres it easily manages to lure the audience along on the strange, sometimes troubling journey it takes.

Melander immediately gains sympathy with her tender performance aided by the Oscar nominated make-up. Fans of Scandi-dramas such as Jordskott and The Bridge may have seen her before, but she is truly unrecognisable here. Her awkward shifting posture alongside the knowledge that she is barely tolerated by the society she has found herself in make her one of the more striking outsiders in genre cinema since the eternally young Eli from Let the Right One In. As Vore, Eero Milonoff plays an altogether more enigmatic figure who seems to delight in the discomfort he causes wherever he wanders. His character is as enigmatic and threatening as Tina’s is compassionate. The path he leads Tina, and the narrative down, is one that is decidedly complex on a moral and ethical level.

It may lack the crossover appeal of Lindquist’s tale of vampirism and have an altogether harder and troubling edge that surfaces throughout but Border is a singular piece of cinema, the likes of which have not been seen in recent memory. Fans of Let the Right One In as well as other Euro-genre fare such as Troll Hunter and Dark should find much to admire in this unique melding of folklore, the grotesque, the tender and naturalistic character drama.


 ‘Border’ received its UK premiere  as part of Glasgow Film Festival 2019.

 Iain MacLeod was raised on the North coast of Scotland on a steady diet of 2000AD and Moviedrome. Now living in Glasgow as a struggling screenwriter he still buys too many comics and blu-rays. Has never seen a ghost but heard two talking in his bedroom when he was 4.

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