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Border: Identity-crisis inducing exploration of societal categorizations

Written by on 24th February 2019

Katharina Moos Bille

The Swedish film Border (originally Gräns) is one of the stranger showings at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival. 

The fantasy film is directed by Ali Abbassi who also wrote the screenplay based on the short story Let the Old Dreams Die alongside Isabella Eklöf and John Ajvide Lindqvist. 

The Oscar nomination for best hair and makeup has clearly lured in a crowd filling the Cineworld theatre. 

I’m not sure anyone was prepared for what was to occur for the next hour and fifty minutes.

The main character Tina thinks she has been told she has a chromosome deformity, which makes her look different from everyone else.

However, Border tells the story of her first meeting with someone who looks like her and her journey to finding her identity. 

Her ability to smell people’s feelings makes her perfect for her job in border security where she sniffs out a memory card with child pornography, involving her in a larger police investigation. 

The Swedish border is however not the only border to be explored throughout the film. 

Sweden is often highlighted as one of the countries on the forefront of gender equality and acceptance of gender fluidity. This film is no exception. 

Through the lens of fantasy it explores how we define gender and even portrays issues of misgendering, forcing the audience to confront what characteristics we use to mentally categorize people within gender boxes. 

Tina meets Vore who is the first person she meets that looks like her. He offers her a maggot to eat and when Tina says she doesn’t want one because it is disgusting, Vore simply asks ‘who said that?’

The film uses the setting of a world that mimics the one we know and with people that look similar enough that we can reflect ourselves in them, but are different enough we can also distance ourselves enough when things get uncomfortable. Hence, Border actively uses the tools of the fantasy genre to confront the audience with societal norms. 

Border also to an extent touches on racism and life as a minority group, however by using race on a biological level distinguishing between the fantastical characters and the human race, rather than the colour of your skin, it becomes a larger criticism of how long-term effects of racial profiling.

The sound design is subtle, yet stunning in its space for silence and diegetic sounds supporting the realism in the film.

Furthermore the fantastical aspects are aided by seamless use CGI and the Oscar nominated hair and makeup that makes you forget where the realistic aspects begin and end. 

Border is a topical eye-opening but also identity-crisis inducing, exploration of how you define gender, sexuality and race conflicts. It’s worth a watch for anyone who is prepared for the confrontation with identity and societal norms. 

Ticket provided Glasgow Film Festival. 

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