The Border Fence draws out the anxieties and fears of a community in the grip of a shifting political landscape, provoking unavoidable parallels with an increasingly divisive Europe.
Astra Zoldnere
Zoldnere is a Latvian film director, curator and publicist. She is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: November 10, 2018

In his newest documentary The Border Fence, Austrian director Nikolaus Geyrhalter once again depicts the European fear of «the Other». His film Abendland (2011) showed a collection of scenes portraying Europe at night, with strong emphasis on surveillance cameras and border fences which keeping outsiders out. In The Border Fence, zooms in the lens is focused on the Austrian–Italian border region Tyrol. In early 2016, Austrian politicians announced plans to build a fence at the Brenner Pass, in order to stop the illegal refugees coming from Italy. Tyrol can thus be viewed as a micro cosmos of the whole Europe as a whole, where different ideas and fears clash.

Protecting the paradise

The establishing of the Schengen Area and the abolishment of border controls was a revolutionary step for Europe. This was a decision that has liberated the European landscape from unneeded fences and walls. The border checkpoints have converted from control mechanisms to artifacts of the past. Travelling has become faster, more convenient, and more humanistic.

The Border Fence by Nikolaus Geyrhalter

However, the current refugee crisis has turned everything upside down. Hungary, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Slovenia, and several other states have suddenly started to build walls and restore border control. One of these fences was a fence designed to separate the Austrian–Italian border in the Alps. Geyrhalter’s camera patiently and precisely captures the Alpine landscape and its inhabitants. Different characters describe their current lifestyle as very good – almost perfect – yet there is a clear anxiety about a potential deterioration.

«Geyrhalter provides space for our own interpretation and doubt: what is real and what is imagined?»

This perfectly correlates with Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s statement about Europe in …

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