CAUTION MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
STOP READING NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN BORDER!!!
I distinctly remember viewing Border for the first time at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. I was incredibly sleep deprived the day of my initial viewing, where almost every bone in my body ached terribly, due to how I only received four hours of sleep the night prior, because I stupidly went to a Midnight Madness screening instead of preserving my mental state. The time of the screening was at 3:15 PM, the Canadian premiere of the film, with Actors Eva Medlander and Eero Milonoff in attendance, alongside director Ali Abbasi. With constant head bobbing and fluttering eye bags, I dozed off during Border, with little to no energy in my body. Little did I know that the film I was about to experience, would keep me up on my toes throughout. In other terms, I experienced Border through an enchanting nightmarish lens.
Half awake during the film, I experienced the odd scene of malicious murder, loads of social commentary, and a sex scene so bizarre and unironically nasty, that it will make you question the sexuality and reproductive systems of your favourite folklore-themed creatures. Drunk in a state of pure disillusion, the various themes and questions asked in Border completely went over my head, with the film’s analytical messages (which are essential and are the backbone to the film’s content.) Of course, I didn’t realize this at first, until as of recently, when I rewatched Border for a second time. Over five Months after I saw the film originally, at the famed film festival, I went to my local arthouse cinema with my two friends (who are both from Scandinavian heritage) to rewatch and relive the magic of Border.
Eva Medlander and Eero Milonoff in Border, courtesy of Nadim Carlsen/Neon
I have to say, rewatching Border may be one of the most satisfying cinematic experiences in recent memory. I’m incredibly content that I had the opportunity to see the film again in theaters, alongside some good companionship. When you watch Border, you need to be in a specific mood to enjoy the film as it was intended. Ali’s inventive vision in an extraordinary bleak depiction of xenophobia, cultural identity, and sexual awakening. Border follows Tina, a border patrol guard, working at an international ferry site, who has a strange ability to detect emotion through scent. The film focuses on Tina’s actions and motivations, with the introduction of Vore (who is brilliantly played by the outstanding Eero Milonoff) who introduces Tina to a world that she’s never experienced first hand. A mythical reality of Scandinavian trolls, the very explanation to her strange talents and abilities.
Ali uses Tina as a principal POV to relate too, a reliable narrator who we can both follow and understand her clear and concise motivations as an audience. Border uses Trolls as a means for cultural identity, where the mythical elements of the film are used as metaphors. Tina is actually an adopted child, who comes from a different culture other than Swede. Her experience with relentless bullying and harassment about her cultural identity makes her feel like a monster, a troll, where the visual resemblance of her real culture is hidden. Tina doesn’t know she’s adopted near the end, where her father confesses about her past. Tina, just like many of us, who have experienced the immigrant experience, is adapting and acknowledging her culture. In the case of Tina, she learns this through growing a penis mid-erection during a sex scene with Vore, where she finds out about her strange mythical abilities. The allegory of traditional Scandinavian folklore doesn’t end there.
With Vore, we have the dark side of this very cultural acknowledgment, a person so beat up and hurt by relentless prejudice and abuse of his own heritage, that he seeks revenge in damaging the very race/animals who hurt him in the first place. Looking back at Vore’s motivations, he shows the very attributes in which one would associate with a troll, including kidnapping children for his own devious intentions. Vore’s actions are despicable, abducting Human children and replacing them with his very own unfertilized Troll embryo, where he later sells the infants to pedophiles and criminals who abuse children and produce child pornography out of said abuse.
Eero Milonoff in Border, courtesy of Nadim Carlsen/Neon
This pleases Vore, as a sort of sadistic revenge, to the people who hurt his family through illegal experimentation. Vore, at the end of the day, is the perpetrator of various hate crimes, whose motivated by the very racial tensions and revenge tendencies he’s experienced throughout his life. A person who has no hope, and lives as a vagabond, preying on other innocent people who are related to his race, like Tina. Border in all the sense of the title is the story of revenge and self-acceptance of racial tensions.
Border may not be a perfect film. Sometimes it drags, and feels a bit too absurd and over the top for its own good. However, when looking back at the pure visceral imagination and inventiveness of the film, it’s merely one of the most original pieces of cinema to come out in the last few years. Border is a film that shouldn't be missed. For those who’ve seen the film, and didn’t like it the first time watching it, consider giving it another shot. It’s a film that’s worth your time, and will even possibly enhance its quality with multiple viewings.