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Forest Creatures: ‘Border’ and How to Make a Modern Fairytale

"Instead of going with the magical, we went with the realism in our cinematic language."

Border may be the strangest, most beguiling film that I have ever seen,” writes Howard Fishman. “It is a fever dream of madness, a remarkable feat of pure imagination and outré filmmaking. 

The film, Fishman continues, is a “wild expression, an attack on normalcy and complacency, a jubilee of mystery and weirdness. If you are entirely satisfied with life, or at least resigned to the inevitability of it running its course in ways that seem tolerably predictable, it may not be the film for you.” To read the full article, click here.

Directed by Ali Abbasi, Border, reports Katie Rife, is “a thematically rich and deeply strange blend of romantic drama, magical-realist fantasy, and crime thriller.” 

The film, explains Wendy Mitchell, “is about a woman who feels like she’s an outsider in her own community. She’s a customs officer who forms a special bond with a suspect she is investigating—as she discovers his true identity, she also realizes the truth about herself.”

“The important thing is the love story and the coming of age of this 40-year-old woman who doesn’t know who she is, she gets to choose her own identity,” Abbasi tells Mitchell. “Through this supernatural journey you always feel this Nordic melancholy of a person that is connected with everything around her in nature but not with human beings.” To read the full interview, click here.

“This is my principle: I’m not interested in making beautiful pictures,” Abbasi tells Nicolas Rapold. “I have this thing where, if a frame or a reel looks too good, then I cut it out, because I don’t want to get from the cinematographic experience to photographic one. That was our main ideology, so to speak.

Working with cinematographer Nadim Carlsen, Abbasi recalls, “We were talking about how to bring life into this story, how to keep the realism, so that the magical becomes more believable and plausible. We decided to approach this with a kind of naturalism, a little bit of a social-realist approach.

“We took great care not to create fantasy. At the same time, there are moments in the movie that are fantastical, and we tried to leave space for those moments, but we really tried to avoid enhancing those moments with smooth camera movements or special treatment. Our idea was to treat all the elements—fantastical, realistic, poetic, the everyday banal—in the same manner, and that in and of itself would be a style.” To read the full interview, click here.

“This story is stylized, it’s not realism; there are other elements, and it’s elevated,” Abbasi says. “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 call it … and we, of course, worked with that.”