Gräns as seen by Abbasi

Gräns - photo du film © FDC


Ali Abbasi certainly arouses curiosity. This Danish director of Iranian extraction caused a sensation with his first feature film, Shelley – a horror drama that was the talk of the town in the 2016 Berlinale. For his second film, the director looked to neighbouring Sweden and its literature for inspiration, adapting John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel Gräns (Border).

Tell us how your film came into being.

I saw the film Let the Right One In, and afterwards I went and read the book. Let the Right One In was a real discovery and the movie invented something new, Nordic realism. I’ll admit Sweden was actually the last place I expected to see an innovative genre film come out of. I dived deeper into John’s writing, and that’s what led me to “Border”. After reading it I knew there was something there. Though at the same time my first thought was also how tricky the story would be to bring to the screen.

A few words on Eva Melander who plays the main role?

With Eva I got really lucky. I was worried that this character could be too passive, and it’s not really in my temperament to make something about a passive character – I focus more on crazy people doing crazy things. But Eva expanded the range of the character 800%. I actually thought at first that Tina shouldn’t talk much at all, but then how do we get to know her?

Luckily Eva is much more expressive wearing a thick silicon mask than many people are without one! She squeezes out small things that make a big difference, with all the different ways she sniffs for instance! There’s the angry sniff, the sad sniff… Eva is extremely meticulous. She works like an engineer, with an almost scientific way of approaching her feelings and performance.

What did you learn while making the film?

I had worried a lot about doing a story that was so deeply rooted in Swedish society and folklore, and whether I might miss anything as a non-native. But as I worked to translate certain aspects of the mythology for the story and talked with different people, I soon realized my outsider's gaze could actually be an advantage.

Your influences?

I love Luis Buñuel and actually named my son Luis after him. Chantal Ackerman is another great inspiration of mine; my first short film was a homage to her. I like the way she takes the banality of life to an absurd and surreal level. Fellini is also one of the masters I admire, and in my view could be considered the ‘Wagner of cinema’ gluing different genres together and making it work.