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Fears of fear

The Border Fence
Regissør: Nikolaus Geyrhalter
( Tyskland)

BORDER CONTROL / With or without fences, Europe will have to take part in the constantly changing world outside.

This article is machine translated by Google from Norwegian

In his latest documentary, The Border Fence, the Austrian director Nikolaus Geyrhalter once again portrays the European fear of "The Other". His movie Abendland (2011) showed a series of scenes depicting Europe at night, with the main subject being surveillance cameras and border fences that keep strangers out. IN The Border Fence he takes the pulse of his life by it
Austro-Italian border region Tyrol. Early in 2016, Austrian politicians announced their plans to build a border fence in the Brenner Pass – which marks one of the most important traffic links between Northern Europe and Italy – to stop illegal refugees from Italy. Tyrol can thus be seen as a microcosm that reflects Europe as a whole where different ideas and anxieties collide.

Will protect paradise

The establishment of the Schengen area and the dismantling of the border guard was a revolutionary step for Europe. Thanks to this decision, Europe has been freed from unnecessary fences and walls. The border stations are no longer control mechanisms, but devices of the past. Traveling has become faster and more comfortable, and at the same time more humane.

The western guilt is most present throughout the film.

However, the refugee crisis has turned upside down
everything. Hungary, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Slovenia and several other states have now started
to build border barriers and restore border controls. One of these
the fences were to mark the border between Austria and Italy in the Alps.
Geyrhalter's camera records the alpine landscape and its inhabitants patiently and
precisely. Various residents describe their way of life as very good – almost
perfect. At the same time, the fear of a possible decline is very present. This
corresponds perfectly with Nikolaus Geyrhalter's statement about Europe i Abendland: “It sounds like paradise: et
place on Earth that is rich in resources, that has a pleasant climate and that is
populated by people who make the best use of these goods. That which does
this privileged life possible, is exclusivity – to limit the participants who
enjoy these benefits, for the simple reason that the resources would otherwise be too

Western guilt

Nevertheless, the fear notwithstanding, the privileged are not indifferent to the suffering of the others. The western guilt is most present throughout the film. Geyrhalter asks provocative questions to the characters in his film and challenges their views. For example, when a woman says she would not kill anyone in the name of religion, the director reminds her that the Catholic Church can be held responsible for many people being killed in God's name.

In another scene, a Senegalese worker emphasizes the West's exploitation of the Senegalese: If a company from another country builds oil rigs in Senegal, the local population is minimized by the total profits.

Tyrol can thus be seen as a microcosm that reflects Europe as a whole where different ideas and anxieties collide.

Still, the most compelling speech comes from an old peasant who embodies "the wise old man" – a Jungian archetype in its purest form. He believes it is absurd and tragic that people are afraid of those forced to flee their homes, and accuse politicians of using outdated manipulation techniques and propaganda. As he sees it, populism cannot be a good basis for a modern society.

The Border Fence
Director Nikolaus Geyrhalter

Geyrhalter has made a clear artistic choice by not showing the refugees.
We only get to know them through news on TV screens and the stories
locals say. Many filmmakers
would certainly have used images of the asylum seekers to arouse emotions
reactions. However, we know well the images of crying children and poor
dressed immigrants through various media. Geyrhalter serves us instead
well-composed images of alpine landscapes and thus leave much to our imagination
and doubts: Who are these immigrants?
real is their presence? Are the local population's fears realistic
or based on imaginations?

Safe box absurdity

Bureaucratic control mechanisms have something frightening, absurdly grotesque and even slightly comical about them. Franz Kafka was a master at portraying such situations. Latvian director Davis Simanis mentions the prominent writer in his film D is for Division (2017), showing a very long queue at the EU border with Russia. In Kafka's "Before the Law" parable, a man waits all his life at a closed gate representing "the Law" right up to the moment of death. I imagine that a number of asylum seekers experience a similar feeling of hopelessness while waiting in refugee camps.

In Geyrhalters The Border Fence becomes the grotesque absurdity of bureaucracy
strongly highlighted. During a press conference, we see the police officers arrange
their pants, bend under the table to pick something up from the floor, they whisper
among themselves or stare blankly into the air. In interviews, many say
the officials that they do not make their own decisions, but only follow orders. These
the people serve the bureaucratic power in the form of politicians we never get
meeting – except on TV.

Despite the tense atmosphere in Europe can
the last scene in the documentary is given an optimistic interpretation. We finally get
see the famous border fence. For two years already it has been in one
warehouse, where police officers regularly check that it is in good condition. We can
just hope that the other fences and ideas to divide Europe will also stay
lying unused. It is equally clear that Europe cannot remain isolated and
preserved in its state of luxury. With or without fences, we will have to take
part of a constantly changing world.

Astra Zoldnere
Soldiers is a Latvian film director, curator and publicist.

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