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Border 2018

Border | Gräns | Grænse


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About the Border 💬

Tina (Eva Melander) is a border guard who has the ability to smell human emotions and catch smugglers. When she comes across a mysterious man (Eero Milonoff) with a smell that confounds her detection, she is forced to confront hugely disturbing insights about herself and humankind.


John Lindqvist (author, Let the Right One In) wrote the short story we turned into BORDER. His way of writing and his universe is very specific, and he doesn't write 'feel-good' literature; if I were to put it in words, he works in fantasy genres or subgenres, but it always has a twist. The way he treats his characters, he uses a lot of space and effort in describing their inner conflict, and their feelings, and their emotions, and their thoughts, which is the kind of thing that you would kind of expect from 'serious literature.' I guess what I'm saying is even if he's known as a fantasy writer, underneath there's always something unsettling, and something very serious, and other conflicts going on, which makes it hard to just see it as 'fantasy literature.' The story had a complexity in itself, and we, of course, developed it and took it further and changed some things, but I think the DNA comes from John and his work.

You could say BORDER is about being an outsider; of course you could say that, but I also think that when you think about where the story comes from, John is a white guy that is totally adapted to his society, and as for (being an outsider,) I mean, that's not why he wrote it, I would guess. The experience of being outsider is not exclusive to if you're brown in a white society, or if you're a woman in a man-dominated society. I think you can be perfectly fit for the society you live in, but still experience... I don't know: You end up in a job you don't like, or you end up in a marriage you don't... you know, I think every person has experienced how it feels to be an outsider, and that's why, in a strange way, everybody is an outsider. Or at least they know how it feels. There are always groups and places that exclude you.

This story is stylized, it's not realism; there are other elements, and it's elevated. So we thought instead of going with that, with stylized shots or framing that kind of signals something special is going on, we tried to go the other way. Instead of going with the magical, we went with the realism in our cinematic language, which I think was the right thing to do because it kind of anchors the realism. Because if it wasn't real, you probably wouldn't care about Tina.

We had this theme through the whole film ... nature versus nurture, or nature versus civilization, or whatever you want to call it... and we, of course, worked with that, for our cinematic production design, and without locations. We tried to create a contrast between the ferry terminal and the forest, and again, as for the realism of it, that place, in reality, does sit exactly like that. The ferry terminal is kind of like a piece of concrete landed at the shore, just a slab on the edge of a forest. And you go inland to the forest, and then there are some small communities of houses, and the film is what the surrounding community looks like. And then there's a city an hour's drive from there. The set design was not that far from reality, and of course, we could have chosen to have more shades in between, but it just... it made sense.

I'm not very technical with directing, so I think my process is fairly simple. The most important thing, and the thing that takes the most time, is casting, finding the right people. And I think if you find the right people, then you're done. And you've written a script where scenes make sense. And you've been thinking through them. And I think a lot of directing is within the script, how the lines are written, how and what the rhythm of it is. I think after that I'm more of like a personal trainer. So I would go and say 'Okay, show me what you want to do.' And I would say 'Well, do a little bit more of this, and less of that, and it would help you.' Because I think at the end of the day I can't make people better than they are, I can't direct them to a golden pinnacle or something. But I can help them to fulfill their potential or be as good as they can be. I have different raw material and then I put the raw material together in the editing room and then I do different stuff with it. And the final movie, or the final scene, can be very different from the raw material. My way of working is more geared towards getting variations of material than one getting one exact type of material.

I think the idea of monster is very connected to the idea of human being. Because monsters are always defined as... you don't call a fox a monster. I think the idea of monsters has always been where there's enough humanity, or elements of humanity, so that we can relate to it as some kind of human-like creature. But it's also far away enough from us so that we know that it's not human. I think that space is how you define a monster.

I'm definitely interested in the psychology of nature versus nurture, of what happens when you're at the limit of humanity. And what is it that defines humanity, which I think is a very relevant question; I don't think it's just an artistic or existential question like it maybe was in the eighteenth century. Not anymore. Because soon, we're going to have legal, ethical, and technical questions to answer about humanity. You know? And one of the core questions of the movie is 'What does it take to be a human being?'

During a Q-and-A in Telluride, I was telling some person in the audience how nature versus nurture and similar thinking underlies a difference between Democrats and Republicans. Generally speaking, Republicans put an emphasis on nature: If you don't have a job it's because you're lazy, if you're a crack addict it's because you like drugs, if you're a criminal, it's because you have a bad nature. And generally speaking Democrats put an emphasis on nurture: If you're poor maybe it's because of the socio-economic situation, or your context, or our society.

And of course, it's neither 100% this or that. But I'm probably more on the nurture part of it. I would say, from my own experience, that I think the context, the society and the socioeconomic situation is really, really important. And for me, it's easy to justify how Tina is more human than Vore is. I think Tina has had the context to develop empathy, which to me is the most critical part of being human.

Ali Abbasi

Border Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Ali Abbasi

Writing Credits

Ali Abbasi, Isabella Eklöf and John Ajvide Lindqvist (Screenplay)

John Ajvide Lindqvist (Based on the short story Gräns by)


Eva Melander

Eero Milonoff

Jörgen Thorsson

Ann Petrén

Sten Ljunggren

Kjell Wilhelmsen

Rakel Wärmländer

Andreas Kundler

Matti Boustedt

Music by

Christoffer Berg

Martin Dirkov

Cinematography by

Nadim Carlsen

Categories: Oscars, Oscar Academy Award Nominee, EFA, European Film Award Winner

Genres: Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Thriller

Countries: Sweden, Denmark

Border Official Trailer

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