5 things you need to know about Border: A Swedish movie about romance between two human-like Trolls

Eva Melander as Tina and Eero Milonoff as Vore in Border.

Looking for a date movie? Then you could do worse than try Border, a Swedish film about a rather unusual romance.... one between two human-like Trolls. From the writer of the acclaimed vampire movie Let the Right One in, it centres on customs inspector Tina (played by Eva Melander, who underwent a dramatic transformation for the role), who has the ability to sniff out the guilt of people carrying contraband. 

When Tina meets a man who shares her unusual facial features, her world is turned upside down... Border was selected by Sweden as their entry into the Oscars 2019 for Best Foreign-Language Film, and (with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 98) has met with critical acclaim for its portrayal of identity. Check out the trailer below, as we share some insights from director Ali Abbasi.

1. It's from the writer of acclaimed vampire film Let the Right One in   

Border is adapted from a novella by John Ajvide Lindqvist, from his 2011 English-language collection Let the Old Dreams Die. Due to her ugliness, middle-aged border guard Tina is living an unhappy life, when she meets the similar looking Vore and finds out that she’s not actually human… 

“We’re both interested in the supernatural and magical,” director Ali Abbasi says of Lindqvist, “but also in some kind of social context – so it made sense to collaborate.” This tale appealed for its strong emotional content. “It was the least twisty of his stories,” Abbasi notes. “It’s much more about the main character and her journey. I felt this mix of the fantasy element and personal drama was fascinating.”

2. It's darker than the original story 

“Lindqvist wrote the first draft, which was very close to his novella, then said, ‘Look, if you want to change it, be my guest, but I think you should do it.” A new subplot sees Tina use her strange ability to smell guilt to help the cops investigate a paedophile ring. The ending’s been tweaked too. “At some points it felt a little too cute,” Abbasi explains. “Our solution was to create this darkness and brutality in the story."

3. The Troll make-up is impressive 

Getting Tina’s look right was tricky. “It has to be human-like so you don’t think, ‘How can she have a job?’” Abbasi notes, “but so extreme that you’d say, ‘Is this really a human?’ Because of the origins of Troll mythology in Nordic folklore, it makes sense that this is another race very close to human beings. So we tried to incorporate elements of what makes neanderthals have this unheimlich feeling – that feeling that we kind of recognise ourselves, but it’s not us.” The team behind it bagged an Oscar nomination.

4. It has a moving central performance 

Eva Melander has won plaudits for her performance as Tina. Abbasi spent more than 18 months on casting. “I think we went through the whole catalogue of Scandinavian actors. There was something funny about sending out casting calls and asking for ugly people! I didn’t know how to define that character either. Originally, I had the idea they have to be really tall and thin. Then I realised I shouldn’t be focusing on physicality; I should find the best actor, then transform that person. With Eva it wasn’t about if Tina was ugly or not, or a Troll or not, but her feelings and her logic.”

5. It features Troll skinnydipping! 

Tina is at home in nature, something expressed in scenes where she runs naked through the forest, or bathes in a lake. The actress suffered for her art. “We were filming in October and November,” Abbasi reveals. “The water temperature was eight degrees Celsius. Luckily for us, Eva was used to winter bathing – she’d been doing it for a while. That really made a difference, as she could have been having muscle spasms, it was so cold. We could heat her up, but not too much, because then the mask would start melting. So we had a few challenges there!”

Border opens in UK cinemas on March 8, 2019.

This news story originally appeared in SFX magazine, issue 311. Pick up a copy now or subscribe so you never miss an issue.

Deputy Editor, SFX

Ian Berriman has been working for SFX – the world's leading sci-fi, fantasy and horror magazine – since March 2002. He also writes for Total Film, Electronic Sound and Retro Pop; other publications he's contributed to include Horrorville, When Saturday Comes and What DVD. A life-long Doctor Who fan, he's also a supporter of Hull City, and live-tweets along to BBC Four's Top Of The Pops repeats from his @TOTPFacts account.