Review of the film “Borders of Madness” by Alejandro Rojas and Juan Sebastian Vasque

Review of the film “Borders of Madness” by Alejandro Rojas and Juan Sebastian Vasque


The directorial debut of cinematographer Alejandro Rojas and editor Juan Sebastian Vasque, Upon Entry, is in theaters. The minimalist Spanish thriller produced Mikhail Trofimenkov a powerful and sticky-unpleasant feeling: after all, anyone could be in the place of his heroes.

For all its banality, the domestic distribution title of the film (in the original called something like “On Arrival”) is unexpectedly accurate in its involuntary ambiguity. After all, it is not only about everyday bureaucratic violence that is boundless due to its internationality and impunity, but also about a border in the literal sense of the word. In short, welcome, dear heroes and spectators, to the extraterritorial zone of the New York airport.

There, Venezuelan urbanist Diego (Alberto Amman) and his common-law wife, Catalan dancer Elena (Bruna Cusi), are scheduled to board a plane to Miami. They flew to the United States on immigrant visas, both, at first glance, decent and wealthy. But a seemingly simple passport control procedure turns into a black hole of madness. And the worst thing about this madness is that it is infinitely realistic.

One could say that Diego and Elena find themselves in the position of the hero of Franz Kafka’s The Trial or George Orwell’s 1984. But for all Kafka’s references to the world of the Austro-Hungarian bureaucracy, and Orwell’s to Soviet and/or McCarthyite practices, their texts were still phantasmagoria, dystopias.

The world of The Borders of Madness is purely, depressingly documentary. Diego and Elena might rather feel like prisoners of a sort of mini-Guantanamo Bay, lurking in the gray corners of any airport in the world. Yes, in fact, who among us has not experienced, while going through airport control, a subconscious feeling of absolute helplessness in front of the inspectors, who have nothing personal against their clients – only the interests of state security. And there will always be ways to threaten your security.

From a dramatic point of view, the film could pass for an adaptation of some classified textbook on interrogation techniques and technology. As a matter of fact, the entire film is an interrogation to which the heroes are subjected, either together or separately, in the “additional control room”, where, having confiscated their passports, the border guard “number eighteen”, who seemed to the neurasthenic Diego the most friendly of all the employees, will deliver them.

As a result, Diego and Elena find themselves in a room the size of a spacious wardrobe. There are no windows. There your phones will be confiscated. There is nowhere to get food or drink. And there you will have to communicate with successive interrogators.

It cannot be said that the “evil investigator – good investigator” scheme works here. If it worked, it might be easier for the heroes: after all, there is something almost human in this scheme. But no, here the investigators are either evil or indifferent.

The same shaven-headed African American “number eighteen”, dispassionately rummaging through the belongings of immigrants and inspecting them personally. A dog handler lisping with a shepherd sniffing victims for drugs. By the way, the skinhead also sniffs the clients’ luggage in a strange way. A sort of “Elsa Koch” named Vasquez (Laura Gomez), who treats her spouses all the more viciously because she herself is an immigrant, and her brother is generally an illegal immigrant; and she, just like that, all of herself, achieved her stripes solely through shepherd zeal. And finally, a tired and completely Gestapo-like investigator, asking the heroes absolutely incredible questions.

Well, yes, Diego has not exactly a shameful secret, but a little secret: before Elena, he was engaged through correspondence on the Internet to a certain American cook, whom he had never seen in his life. But this is rather a problem between him and Elena, although it arouses suspicions of his desire to get to the USA at any cost. And the reluctance to return to Venezuela, where God knows what is going on and where he was already kidnapped once, is obvious to everyone except the American border guards, who supposedly know nothing about the Venezuelan crisis.

Questions about whether spouses often copulate with each other, and on which side of the bed Elena sleeps, and how long, in her opinion, her parents have left to live, are already beyond the bounds of, to put it mildly, reasonable inquiry. Not to mention the proposal to Elena, who is on the verge of hysteria, to demonstrate some modern dance to the interrogators in order to prove her status as a ballerina. This is already from somewhere in The Night Porter. This already seems like a sick fantasy of the new Gestapo. But no, these are just technologies that make us feel like fragile ice under the feet of a fellow major from the FBI. Or any similar structure.

In general, a very relevant movie. And the more relevant it is, the more disgusting the reality that gave birth to it.


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