Customs border patrol officer Tina (Eva Melander) is very much aware that she’s different. Her otherness lies in not only her physicality but also in her uniquely acute power of smell – particularly her ability to smell the emotions of others. Director Ali Abbasi presents us with an extremely profound tale that goes beyond the obvious story of self-discovery and acceptance and speaks to the world at large on the subject of tolerance and coexistence. It’s an allegory masked in grotesque whimsy: a bold and powerful message hidden in an adult fairytale.
Tina’s world is turned upside-down when a man of shockingly similar appearance shows up at her border station. After crossing a few times, Vore (Eero Milonoff) and Tina befriend one another and after a series of positive encounters and one huge reveal, it seems the customs officer has finally found her place in the world. Vore helps Tina find herself and she’s suddenly imbued with a radiant self-confidence and self-worth, demonstrated in the moment when she kicks out her deadbeat boyfriend and has passionate sex – an act she previously described as painful and impossible – with Vore in the forest. Darkness begins to cloud their relationship when Vore tells his lover of their inhuman nature and begins to insist on the inherent evilness of human beings. Tina tries to convince him that not all humans are bad, but his later actions – which reveal his involvement in an illicit and horrific crime scheme designed to “help humans hurt themselves” – make it clear that he will never be able to let go of the anger in his heart and his desire for vengeance.
In a day and age where the whole world is on the brink of destruction over conflicts in which otherness lies at the core of the problem, Abbasi’s film speaks volumes. Whether it be physical border conflicts we’re fighting or borders which perpetuate hatred and discrimination in our own minds, we’re all at war, wanting retribution for the sins of others. This feature challenges us to dig deeper and recognise that there’s usually good and evil on both sides and that obligation doesn’t justify committing heinous acts.
Aside from a few graphic and awkward moments and a little overacting at times, Border just may be the title to beat in this year’s Un Certain Regard.
Border (Gräns) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch a clip from Border (Gräns) here: