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GÖTEBORG 2020

Jon Blåhed • Director of Inland

"I enjoy being able to surprise the audience and hand them something they think they don’t want to be handed"

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- We spoke to Swedish helmer Jon Blåhed about his feature Inland, which showcases the vast expanses of northern Sweden

Jon Blåhed  • Director of Inland

Swedish first-time fiction feature director Jon Blåhed, who has just presented Inland [+see also:
film review
interview: Jon Blåhed
film profile
]
at the Göteborg Film Festival, likes it dark, provocative and way up north, as he told us when we sat down for a chat.

Cineuropa: Fittingly, your first fiction feature is an adaptation of a first novel, Elin Willows’ Inland. What attracted you to this story?
Jon Blåhed:
I was immediately taken with the main character, a girl from Stockholm who breaks up with her boyfriend on the way up to their new home in northernmost Sweden, and then decides to stay there on her own. She’s a provocative character and like nothing I’ve seen on the screen before – ever, really. I like to tell different stories, often ones that take place in the north, where I grew up.

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You wrote the script yourself. Did you change a lot?
The novel is quite peculiar, written in fragments. It’s kind of like a diary without any dialogue, almost like a puzzle. “This won’t work for a film,” people told me, which made me all the more keen. I read the book three times and then put it away and started writing from my own head, creating a dialogue. I also added some of my own experiences of the region. Elin Willows has been very positive and really likes the film. She just met Irma for the first time in Gothenburg, and it was moving. “You’re her,” she said. “You’re really her!” So we must have done something right.

You presented some scenes from Inland at Haugesund in August. At that point, it looked like a quirky romcom: the big-city girl winds up in the wilderness all by herself and in culture shock, but forges a bond with the colourful locals, including a nice young man, and then she should live happily ever after. This is deceptive, as the story gets really dark after a while. Was this your way of consciously playing with the audience?
Absolutely, and very much. I enjoy being able to surprise the audience and hand them something they think they don’t want to be handed, but which afterwards they can appreciate. People like to put genre labels on films, but I like to visit some unknown territories. And I hope to lure some unassuming viewers to Inland – not least via actors like Eva Melander and Ann Petrén, who are popular and well loved. I never planned to cast any big names, but they liked the script and came on board, despite the modest budget we were working with.

The one who really carries the film is Irma von Platen. How did you find her?
I’d worked as assistant director on a number of films, and I met Irma in this context on Levan Akin’s The Circle [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
. I then worked with her on a short film last year, called Shut Up Haters, and felt she had more in her that I wanted to explore. I tested many actors for the Inland lead, but Irma was the one. And I like the fact that she’s not yet that well known.

The territory is also very well cast, almost a character in itself. Did you handpick the locations carefully?
We did. I work closely with my cameraman, Jimmy Sundin, and we discussed all sorts of emotional aspects of the script. We then drove around, trying to find the same emotions in certain places, if that makes sense. We found what we were looking for. The hardest part was the house where she rents a room. We wanted the exact right colour, and after a while, we found that, too!

You have now directed within the short, documentary and fiction feature formats. Are there any common denominators to be found thus far?
I’ve had female leads – Malin Buska in Shut Up Haters, Maj Doris Rimpi in Maj Doris [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
and Irma in Inland. They all take place in northern Sweden and form this “trilogy”. Right now, I’m working on three scripts, and only one takes place up north, in the Torne Valley during the 1930s. The other two are Stockholm-based – a dark comedy series for TV and a documentary about my father’s cousin Maximilian Kartaschev, aka “The Duke”, a notorious Stockholm criminal who died in 2007. So I’m hoping for some good budgets, and then I’m off to work on those.

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