Inland: Interview with director Jon Blåhed and actress Irma von Platen

‘Wow this looks interesting! Is it from a new show?’ Never shy to ask a question, I was intrigued when I saw an image of a girl hugging a giant taxidermy bear. It looked dark and menacing yet also comforting.

The actress whose photo it was replied: ‘New Swedish feature film’. And that is how we came to hear about Inland.

A new Swedish film release based on the novel by Elin Willows, Inland starts off in Stockholm with a couple who decide to head off to his childhood home town in the vast, and vastly different, north of Sweden. On the drive up there, their relationship comes to an end but the city girl, delicately played by Irma von Platen, decides to go ahead anyway and build a new life up there in the middle of nowhere.

An intriguing and slightly uncomfortable experience ensues, where Irma’s character encounters all sorts of setbacks and suffering. And a weird obsession with a stuffed bear…Inland is an unusual film and we look forward to a UK release so you can all see it for yourselves!

In the meantime, we interview Irma and the director, Jon Blåhed, to learn more about the making of the film:

How did the film come about for you? Were you both familiar with Elin Willows book and was she involved with the process?

JON: I’m from the northern region of Sweden (where the book is set) so I was intrigued as soon as I heard about the book. I was looking for a project to do within a low-budget scheme called ”Moving Sweden” (supported by The Swedish Film Institute and SVT) and I quickly realized that this book would be able to adapt to fit that scheme. Elin read the script and gave me a few notes, but she wasn’t involved in the production beyond that.

IRMA: In the summer of 2018 Jon and I were working together on the half length film “Turpa Kiinni Minun Haters”, written and directed by Jon. It’s a story of two sisters from Tornedalen, north of Sweden, dreaming of making a career in music. I’m playing the younger sister. It was during this shoot that Jon introduced me to his idea of writing a script based on the newly released book “Inland” and asked me if I’d be interested in playing the lead.

I read the book immediately and was absolutely captivated by it. The slow tempo and the kinda indifference of the main character struck me as equally frustrating and intriguing and I found the mere idea of making this book into a film interesting!  

The film follows Irma’s character through the seasons in Sweden – how did you go about catching these seasons for the film and whereabouts was it filmed?

JON: It’s mostly filmed in Arjeplog where Elin took a lot of inspiration from when she wrote the book. Some interior scenes are shot in Luleå. The seasons are very important in the book, and I wanted to stay true to that. It meant that we had to shoot the film in three different seasons during a six month period.

Jon and the team hard at work in the snow

How did you get into playing the role and researching it? Were you experienced with living up in the North or was it as much a surprise for you as it was for your character in the film?

IRMA: I’m born and raised in the center of Stockholm, so in that sense I have a lot in common with the character. Before shooting “Turpa Kiinni…” I had basically not been north of Gävle and had no experience whatsoever of living in a smaller town.

For “Inland” we spent a lot of time up in Arjeplog and Luleå before the shoot started, so I really got the chance to dive deep into the character. The big challenge with this character was to manage to let the struggle going on inside of her shine through, without overacting it. 

The musical score in this is such a prominent part of the film – what was the direction you had given the composer?

JON: I listened to a lot of drone music while writing the script. It was important to me to have a score that resonated with the characters feelings and not the environment around her. I didn’t want anything romantic or cute. I had the American composer Kali Malones music on my Spotify-playlist without knowing that she is based in Sweden. She read (and liked) the script and started to compose the score even before we started shooting the film.

There is copious amounts of Pick’n’Mix on show – how many sweets did you really get through Irma? And what was the last film you watched that made you want to eat something you saw in the film?

JON: Sabor the Soledad from rewatching 30 Rock. Such a great name! Would have fit perfectly for the main character in Inland.

IRMA: Haha there’s been so many questions about the candy!!! Not the least from my friends and family, who know that I’m not that much of a sweet-tooth – especially not for the classical Swedish Pick’n mix…! This was bit of challenge though, both for me and for Jon who had to insist on me taking bigger bites haha… 

I recently watched the second season of “Master of none”, where they spend a lot of time in Modena in Italy, making pasta!! 

What have you got lined up next for us to look out for?

JON: I managed to finish a documentary despite the tricky last 18 months. It’s called “The Count” and it has premiered at Thessaloniki Documentary Festival this summer. I’ve also been writing a lot, and have a couple of drama projects that I hope we start shooting early next year.

IRMA: I’m a bit of a multitasker, working simultaneously as an actress and a dancer and choreographer(I’m actually educated as a contemporary dancer and choreographer from The National School of Performing arts in Copenhagen). 

Most recently, I’ve shot this short film that will soon be screened on SVT: Ziba (see trailer below).

It’s a really interesting story of two young woman from completely different cultures falling in love. It’s directed by Alireza Teimori, who just graduated from SKH/Uniarts in Stockholm. 

Besides that, I’ve also choreographed and danced in an interactive children’s performance called “Milkywhale”, touring together with some colleagues in Denmark. 

What have you been watching, reading, and listening to recently – any recommendations for us?

JON: Mostly been watching the euro 2020 football this summer:) But the Norwegian show Pörni by Henriette Steenstrup is awesome!

I’m reading ‘Tills alla dör’ by Diamant Salihu right now. I don’t think it’s out in English yet, but it’s really good (and sad) about gang violence in Stockholm suburbs.

Listen to the new Fricky album Fricktion’ if you want some Swedish summer vibes!

IRMA: I’m listening to Ani Kuni from Polo&Pan and Siamo Ospiti from La rappresentante di lista (these are my summer anthems!).

Reading the debut of Swedish author Johanna Frid, called Nora, eller brinn Oslo brinn. It’s great! (But unfortunately I doubt it’s been translated…). I recently watched Sound of Metal and was blown away! 

Interview by Alex Minnis

Inland can only currently be seen over in Scandinavia but we are keeping a close eye on when it might get a release here in the UK – Watch this space!

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