Tuesday, April 16, 2024

“GREEN BORDER”

THE STORY – In the treacherous and swampy forests that make up the so-called “green border” between Belarus and Poland, refugees from the Middle East and Africa trying to reach the European Union are caught in a geopolitical crisis triggered by Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko. In an attempt to provoke Europe, refugees are lured to the border by propaganda promising easy passage to the EU. Pawns in this hidden war, the lives of Julia, a newly minted activist who has given up her comfortable life, Jan, a young border guard, and a Syrian refugee family intertwine.

THE CAST – Jalal Altawil, Maja Ostaszewska, Tomasz Włosok, Behi Djanati-Atai, Mohamad Al Rashi, Dalia Naous, Maciej Stuhr & Agata Kulesza

THE TEAM – Agnieszka Holland (Director/Writer), Maciej Pisuk & Gabriela Łazarkiewicz-Sieczko (Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME – 147 Minutes


It can be difficult to hold a mirror up to society to analyze real-world atrocities. These situations are never easy to tackle because of the hard questions they pose. For many, it’s easy to simply recognize such heinous acts without ever truly contemplating the nature of their existence. Nor do many actually seek to understand the complicity of world powers that refuse to prevent such suffering. In fact, many of these institutions encourage such a grim situation. It’s vital to be cognizant of such horror, and the art form of cinema is often an arena that houses such exploration. That is very much the case with “Green Border,” a harrowing look at a modern crisis that showcases it with a harsh and moving effectiveness.

The situation at hand is the border disaster specifically occurring across Europe. In the beginning, a Syrian family is seen arriving in Belarus, hoping to cross over to Sweden to seek asylum. Along the way, they cross paths with Leila (Behi Djanati Atai), an Afghan woman who ends up accompanying the family. Unbeknownst to this group is just how treacherous this journey will be. The border agents show nothing but the most abject cruelty to the refugees, and they have to survive one horrific ordeal after another. Their plight is juxtaposed against Jan (Tomasz Włosok), a young border agent who begins questioning the morals at play, and Julia (Maja Ostaszewska), a woman who is sparked into humanitarian activism. All parties must endure the terror on display in order to achieve a better life.

It’s unbelievably striking how Agnieszka Holland crafts this tale. There is an immediate sense of danger that stalks these parties, particularly this escaping family. One feels immersed in the forests they must tread, and every assault brought upon them by these violent parties is realized with a disturbing intensity. The imagery is highly unnerving, as they are designed to be. The utter helplessness in the face of such inhumanity is challenging to watch but necessary to comprehend the scale of such an event. The justification these soldiers feel to inflict such pain is chilling, but these depictions are necessary to convey the true dread. It’s equally alarming to witness the apathy from European citizens, who are aware of what is happening but choose not to become involved. It’s an equally abhorrent sin that Holland conveys with an appropriate gaze. The filmmaking utilized never shies away from the brutality but doesn’t come across as exploitative either. It’s a sinister and troubling plot but also a highly engrossing portrait.

One could almost make the argument that such a presentation is too impressive. The rampant evil shown, while necessary, does start to become repetitive at a certain point. This does not take away from the magnitude of these circumstances, but the oppressive atmosphere does start to show signs of less diversity and becomes repetitive in nature. It makes some portions of the story feel tedious, and the power of these observations begins to lose its impact. Of the several narrative strands being followed, admittedly, the one surrounding Jan is the least interesting. The character of a man involved in systems of oppression who slowly learns to recognize their involvement through the course of an evolving morality is not a particularly inspiring perspective. The motives to examine this are understandable, but it’s rooted in such a basic decency principle that is not earned nor worthy of deeper analysis.

The performances at the center are also quite compelling, too. The Syrian family mostly works as a single unit, so not too many of them stand out apart from Mohamad Al Rashi as the kindly grandfather. One has a great deal of empathy for Leila, and Behi Djanati-Atai brings forth an incredibly heartbreaking portrayal. The tenacity of Julia is also found in Ostaszewska, who brings the seething determination in the shades of insecurity to take on such a tremendous task. However, she is always an engaging figure. As mentioned, Włosok is given a section that just isn’t very captivating, but he does at least perform his part well. It’s actually a credit to him that he makes this material work at all, as his soulful performance elevates the weaker foundation. All members of the ensemble serve the overall tone and fit neatly within this tapestry.

For many, watching “Green Border” will be a very demanding task to experience. It intentionally puts graphic violence right up front to illustrate what is currently transpiring. To look away is to indict oneself into the very revulsion that plagues these people. However, that is precisely what Holland intends. Her filmmaking utilizes this landscape to demonstrate a stark and vile practice, sincerely felt by the receivers of such malice and the perpetrators as well. While some viewpoints on this conflict are more valued than others, it’s hard not to deny this profound examination. It’s sadly a necessary commentary, and here it is brought to the forefront with horrifying scrutiny.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - The film is a disturbing examination of a current crisis that still manages to be engrossing in its depictions. The filmmaking creates a sense of immersion, making strong emotional connections to this horrific plight. The performances from the ensemble fit the overall tone of the piece nicely.

THE BAD - Some of the brutal scenes don't have much variety, which leads to them feeling oppressive and respective. Some perspectives in the story are not as interesting as others.

THE OSCARS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 8/10

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Josh Parham
Josh Parhamhttps://nextbestpicture.com
I love movies so much I evidently hate them. Wants to run a production company.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>The film is a disturbing examination of a current crisis that still manages to be engrossing in its depictions. The filmmaking creates a sense of immersion, making strong emotional connections to this horrific plight. The performances from the ensemble fit the overall tone of the piece nicely.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Some of the brutal scenes don't have much variety, which leads to them feeling oppressive and respective. Some perspectives in the story are not as interesting as others.<br><br> <b>THE OSCARS - </b>None <br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"GREEN BORDER"