With bleeding edge topicality, Polish thriller “The Border” arrives on DVD this week. Previously shown on Channel 4 this year, the 2014 human trafficking drama is as relevant as it’s ever been.
At the farthest frontier of Europe, on the Polish-Ukrainian border, a unit of Border Patrol guards is targeted by a bomb attack, leaving Captain Wiktor Rebrow (Leszek Lichota) as the unit’s sole survivor. Haunted by the death of his colleagues – including his lover – he finds himself singled out by the determined Public Prosecutor Iga Dobosz (Aleksandra Poplawska) as the chief suspect and must prove his innocence by unravelling the conspiracy which led to his unit’s death.
While the Polish/ Ukrainian setting may stretch the definition of ‘Nordic’ to its breaking point, “The Border” sits comfortably within the Nordic Noir milieu. However, where the dramas for which the genre has become celebrated can sometimes move at a glacial pace, “The Border” benefits from tighter, more propulsive storytelling thanks to its trim six episode structure. Don’t worry though – there are still plenty of scenes of brooding middle distance staring soundtracked by mournful violins for fans of the genre. Bolstered by recurring thematic imagery of hunting, “The Border” manages to shine a light on the harsh realities of life along the border of the European Union and still finds time to throw in the peppering of interpersonal dramas and secrets which keep the characters and the viewers on their toes.
Tackling its subject matter with a discomforting frankness, it’s a brutally honest examination of the xenophobia and misogyny inherent in the borderlands of Poland. What it doesn’t do is demonise or consecrate the immigrants who form the backdrop of the story. Instead, we’re privy and party to the dehumanisation of them through the eyes of the major players in the drama: for the traffickers, they are a commodity, a livestock to be traded; to the border patrol and the Polish state, they are a propaganda weapon and a political headache. As Rebrow begins to peel back the layers, it’s clear that the bears and wolves which inhabit the borderland forests aren’t the only things to be wary of (The original Polish title “Wataha” translates as “The Pack”).
Even these days, in the age of box sets and binge watches, it’s a welcome change of pace to have a such a contained run time for a series, meaning you can fit in “The Border” easily in the space of a single evening. Offering gripping drama, bucolic scenery and some thought provoking themes, this is one Border you’ll want to cross – off your ‘to watch’ list.
The Border is out now on Nordic Noir & Beyond DVD.