John Seven | Viewer's Discretion: 'Watership Down' revisited; 'Border' probes self-discovery
'BORDER' (AMAZON, APPLE, GOOGLE PLAY, VUDU, YOUTUBE)
There's something about "Border" that made me think of the current DNA craze, the impulse by people to find the answers to themselves within their own genetic structure. Looking for your ancestry is one way of asking, "Who am I?" especially in a world where we fabricate race and nationalities as something natural. "Border" is about asking those same questions, but only having the possible answer show up by sheer happenstance.
Tina (Eve Melander) is a border agent on a ferry between Denmark and Sweden, and her heightened abilities — she's able to smell fear — make her invaluable to finding smugglers and contraband. But her difference is also outward. She says she has a chromosomal mutation, which causes her to look a bit like a Neanderthal, but then one day, another person walks through the border looking just like her, and the world, it seems, just might open up.
But if this is a story of self-discovery, it's wise enough to include emotions beyond joy that the revelations might bring. Confusion, rage, these are also part of the mix. The story of your heritage is, indeed, a part of you, but with that can come dark implications, and learning to parse those is where the real journey begins for the person.
This is a very particular movie that is hard to recommend blindly. I know that some people will find it unpleasant — slow, sometimes ugly, sometimes painful. But the emotional journey of Tina is so beautiful and the film so immersive that if you are ready to be wrapped in raw emotion so that you not only feel the hurtful emotions, but the accompanying elation, then you may find "Borders" to be the kind of revelation that you don't often encounter.
'WATERSHIP DOWN' (NETFLIX)
Richard Adams' classic book gets another shot at animated treatment and makes a perfect score again. I can't speak to the 1999 British television series, but the 1978 animated film was excellent, and this one does an intelligent job of fleshing out that good work.
Folding in concepts and commentary around politics, religion, philosophy and sociology, the story concerns a group of rabbits whose warren is destroyed by human construction, which was foretold by a clairvoyant rabbit, Fiver (Nicholas Hoult). Under the leadership of Hazel (James McAvoy), the rabbits set about to begin a new warren and the first order of business after finding a suitable location is to attract does.
That's where the trouble begins, putting them in direct conflict with the warren of Efrafra and its ruthless leader, General Woundwort (Ben Kingsley), who runs it much like a military dictatorship.
Renowned by many as the story that seems like it should be for kids, but isn't, I'd actually like to dispute that a little bit. This four-hour adaptation of the novel isn't for every kid, certainly, and definitely not younger kids, just because of the plot sophistication, but in certain situations, I could see this being perfectly appropriate for, say, 9-year-olds on. It's dark, yes, and there is some violence, but it's no more violent than many of the movies and video games we allow kids that age to partake in, and this is transcendent violence that evokes something real — the violence of nature — in order to comment on some more dire, human violence. You know your kid, so you know if this is appropriate for them.
John Seven is a writer in North Adams who has never been satisfied by movies and television that are easy to come by. He likes to do some digging. Find him online at johnseven.me.
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