Human Encounters

Human Encounters

Ali Abbasi’s Un Certain Regard winning film Border, co-written by Isabella Eklöf, centres around customs officer Tina (Eva Melander) and an encounter with Vore (Eero Milonoff) that transforms her sense of identity and place in the world. Melander discusses the act of communicating with an audience and her interest in human experiences.

ASFF: Why did you pursue acting as a means of creative expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment for you?
EM:
I have actually been collecting people my whole life; they are moving inside of me. I have so many stories I want to tell and people I want to talk about. Acting is one way of doing this. It’s a way of telling stories and being a witness of other people’s lives, and your own life. When I was a kid, I didn’t think I was going to be an actress, and I didn’t long for it. I don’t come from a background of actors, writers or artists, and so it took a long time. But I remember when I was 11 and there was a girl next door who had been to Stockholm for a casting. I thought: Wow, can you do that? I also wanted to go to Stockholm for a casting, and I thought: I could do that.  

When I stood on stage for the first time, I was probably 16. I was in school taking part in a girls’ culture club, and we made a sketch performance that was five hours long. We made everything ourselves – we wrote the script, we directed, we made all the backdrops. I was very nervous because it was sold out – over 500 people. I’d never done anything like it, but when I stepped onto the stage I enjoyed communicating with the audience about a story. When I moved to Stockholm I was interested psychology, but after pursuing an acting course I quit and was back into performing.

ASFF: Do you find an interest in psychology helpful in understanding your characters?
EM:
The curiosity that I have – and I think a lot of actors have – probably gives you the greatest force when you are working, but it’s how you use it. I think part of psychology and part of being an actress is being interested in what is human.

ASFF: Border rewards contemplation beyond the immediacy of the experience. From first reading the script to now, has your personal understanding of the film changed?
EM:
Reading the manuscript is still probably the most important moment because it was when I was really discovering the story for the first time. I said: “I’ve never read anything like it.” I felt that it was fresh and interesting, and contained so many issues, without it being a film that tells its story through a specific theme.

When we talk about the film today, I must say that for me it’s the same. There have been changes in the editing of the story, but the important parts of the film are there. It wasn’t a big surprise how it came out. The film is a physical experience and that exists from script to screen.

ASFF: Film is a visual art form, yet for an actor it begins with words on the page. How does this first encounter work?

EM: Reading a manuscript for the first time is a very special moment. If you do it properly – if you are open to the words – you will actually get a lot of work done on a first reading because there are so many thoughts and feelings that occur when you know nothing.

ASFF: Filmmaker Christoph Behl remarked to me: “You are evolving, and after the film, you are not the same person as you were before.” Do you perceive there to be a transformative aspect to the creative process for you personally?
EM:
Yeah I do feel that, but what happens in my life affects the way I work, and what I do in work will actually affect my life. I see acting as being like life – they are synonymous and they affect each other.

Border is in cinemas now. Find out more here.

Paul Risker