A young Austrian soldier patrolling the border is sent to spy on a couple suspected of smuggling illegal migrants in “Crossing Boundaries,” a minimalist drama from writer-helmer Florian Flicker. This modern reworking of an early 20th-century chamber play unfolds in 2001, in a lush, marshy area along the Austrian-Slovak border. Although the narrative involves deceit, transgression and betrayal aplenty, the emotions on display seem restrained in comparison with the wildness of the primal setting. Good-looking pic nabbed the Cicae kudo at the Sarajevo fest, easing its way into art-cinema network venues across Europe.
Restless fisherman Hans (Andreas Lust, “The Robber”) and his younger wife, Jana (Andrea Wenzl), operate a tavern on their isolated, ramshackle property where his family lived for generations. Hans entertains various ideas for improvements that will attract more customers: a sculpture garden, a bed-and-breakfast and a golf course, but none has come to fruition, perhaps because most of his energy goes into his smuggling activities.
Austrian army Vice Lt. Fuchs (Martin Schwanda) suspects the couple, but cannot prove anything, despite unannounced raids and searches. He enlists handsome new recruit Robbie (Stefan Pohl) to befriend the pair, particularly Jana, with instructions to “Keep your eyes peeled. If you notice anything, tell me about it, and I’ll have you sent back to Vienna.”
Hans immediately suspects Robbie’s intentions, and presses Jana to respond to his overtures so that Fuchs will think he has the upper hand. Although not keen on this dangerous game, Jana plays along, but soon other boundaries are crossed.
Creating an environment where the characters are naturally tightlipped, Flicker’s dialogue aims for a noirish tone a la James M. Cain or Raymond Chandler, and the flirtatious exchanges between Robbie and Jana wouldn’t be out of place in “The Postman Always Rings Twice” or “Double Indemnity.” But the overly schematic screenplay fails to satisfyingly develop the backstory of Hans and Jana’s relationship, thus undermining the final plot twist.
Breathtaking lensing by Martin Gschlacht (“Lourdes” “Women Without Men”) and a resonant, emotionally potent score by Eva Jantschitsch lead the handsome craft package.