In Border Swedish/Iranian director Ali Abbasi offers one of the most intriguing, moving and utterly compelling films of the year so far. Adapted from a short story by Let The Right One In writer John Ajvide Lindqvist titled Gräns. The film tells the story of an intuitive customs officer named Tina (Eva Melander) as she struggles to come to terms with her true identity after a chance meeting with the mysterious Vore (Eero Milonoff), whom she finds herself strangely attracted to.
A couple of weeks ago, HeyUGuys caught up with Abbasi and his lead actors Melander and Milonof who were on a flying visit to London. We were able to talk to them about this extraordinary story and their experiences of working under such exceptional circumstances and what compelled them to take on such a challenging project. Read our glowing review from Cannes last year.
For Abbasi, this was his way into the big time he says jokingly, “I really badly needed to make a mainstream movie. I had done a first feature [Shelley] which kinda flopped, so I needed to have a career, if I’m honest, and the author [ Ajvide Lindqvist] was very well-known, so I thought he’s kinda bankable, and if I do something I can sort of figure out under his reputation” says Ali. Does he feel like that there were other reasons why he wanted to make this particular movie? “Of course there are other elements of the story that are super fascinating, but I think part of it was timing, I thought this is going to be my mainstream movie. and then the more we got into things I started to think, why did I did think it was going to be so easy?” he adds.
Undergoing a grueling transformation to play two extraordinary characters, both Milonoff and Melander knew exactly what they were getting themselves into from the get go. “The first time I read the script, I was immediately into it” says Eero. “I mean such amazing, complex and characters and that’s always very interesting” he continues.
For Eva, it was a no-brainer to get onboard despite her initial misgivings about having to change her appearance so drastically in such a short time. “I hadn’t read the short story before I was preparing for the casting, but when I did, I thought that it was such a beautiful and magical story and the parts I read from the manuscript, I felt like it was the same but stronger. The bits that I liked from the short story were there, but even more expressive. So many strong themes and so many good things went into it. It felt like I’d been longing for this screenplay for some time” says Eva.
How hard was it for her to go through the physical transformation and having to sit through up to 4 hours in a make-up chair daily to achieve the look Abbasi was after? “I knew from the start that there was going to be some kind of transformation and that we as actors would have to do it. Ali asked how I felt about gaining about 10 KG, which I thought was a lot to put on in 2 and a half months, but we were both so determined that we just got on with it”
Does Abbasi agree that this is clearly more than just a genre movie and that the story deals with far complex ideas relating to alienation and otherness? “I think, just to clarify, I don’t mind people talking about this in terms of what genre it is or if it is a fantasy movie or whatever… I just don’t want this to be like a strange conflict between ‘oh it’s a genre movie and something else’, I think that doesn’t really describe anything” he says. “I’ve watched this movie many times now, and still every time I watch it, what sticks with me is the love story. And this is what I was thinking about when I thought about how to treat its characters” says Ali. He continues “So I thought there’s gotta be some sort of strange romance, and I don’t mind it being part of the mix, but I needed it to be something that keeps all the other elements together. If you have a strong love story, you can build other things around it”
Border is in Cinemas nationwide from Friday 8th of March